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Blog Post · February 28, 2024

Video: Californians and Their Government

photo - California State Capitol

In the March 5 primary, California voters will select the top-two Senate candidates who will appear on the November 2024 ballot. The February PPIC Statewide Survey taps into voter sentiment around candidates and gauges opinions on current issues affecting the state and nation. On Friday, Dean Bonner, associate survey director and senior fellow, discussed key takeaways with survey analyst Lauren Mora.

Bonner provided the latest standings among likely voters on the US Senate candidates: Congresspersons Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, both Democrats, and Republican Steve Garvey lead for the top-two primary spots. Support for Schiff and Porter is split somewhat among Democrats, while Garvey has earned the support of nearly half of Republicans. Among independents, Schiff and Porter each have 19% support; Garvey garners 14% support.

On the national stage, “Former president Trump is on pace to collect all of the delegates in the Republican primary,” Bonner said, indicating that the win likely means a replay of the 2020 election. Ahead of such a rematch, President Biden leads Trump by a 23-point margin among California likely voters.

Mora noted that a solid majority of Californians are dissatisfied with the way democracy is working in the US during another important election year. Furthermore, when people were asked how much influence they have in decision-making in the US, California, or their local area, strong majorities say not much or none in the US or in California; solid majorities feel they have little influence even at the local level.

Californians are also troubled by the state’s budget—Bonner indicated that most adults agree that the budget situation is a problem. In January, Governor Newsom released a spending plan for the budget, which is now estimated to face a $37.9 billion shortfall. To close the budget gap, Newsom is proposing to dip into state reserve money, or so-called Rainy Day Funds, a strategy that fewer than half of Californians think is a good idea.

Approval of Newsom has declined among adults since last year; Bonner pointed to double-digit declines across many groups—including Democratic-leaning regions like Los Angeles and among Democrats themselves—and noted that the budget may be a factor driving the drop in approval.

In terms of national issues, California adults perceive the situation with migrants at the US-Mexico border as a crisis or a very serious problem. The reasons behind the perception vary, Bonner said: three in four are concerned about national security; three in four worry about the lives and well-being of migrants—fewer than half, however, fear changes to US culture and people.

While Californians’ top concerns for the state still center around issues related to jobs and the economy, likely voters in the ten California congressional districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report have begun to express a little more concern over immigration. Along with the economy and inflation, Mora said that immigration may end up being a key issue for these House races in November.


2024 Election Adam Schiff approval ratings Donald Trump elections Gavin Newsom Immigrants in California immigration inflation jobs Joe Biden Katie Porter Political Landscape presidential primary state budget Statewide Survey Steve Garvey US Mexico border US Senate voters