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Press Release · October 26, 2016

Clinton’s Lead Grows, Harris Ahead of Sanchez 2 to 1

Majorities Favor Marijuana Measure, Tax Increases on High Earnings, Cigarettes—Support Lags for School Bond

SAN FRANCISCO, October 26, 2016—Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump has increased to 26 points among California likely voters, up 10 points since September. In the US Senate race, Kamala Harris leads Loretta Sanchez by 22 points.

These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with funding from The James Irvine Foundation.

Clinton leads Trump 54 percent to 28 percent among likely voters. Both the Green Party ticket led by Jill Stein and the Libertarian ticket headed by Gary Johnson have 5 percent support. Clinton led by 16 points (47% to 31%) in the September PPIC survey.

Today, most Democrats (88%) support Clinton, and she leads among independents (48% to 24%). Most Republicans support Trump (70%). Clinton leads by a larger margin among women (59% to 25%) than among men (48% to 32%). She is ahead in all age, education, and income groups. The race is closer among whites (45% Clinton, 36% Trump) than among Latinos (71% to 12%) and members of other racial/ethnic groups (72% to 15%). This last category includes Asian American and African American likely voters, the sample sizes for which are too small for separate analysis.

Only 38 percent of likely voters are satisfied with their choice of candidates—far fewer than before recent presidential elections (69% October 2012, 56% October 2008). Fewer than half of Democrats (47%), 36 percent of Republicans, and only 22 percent of independents are satisfied. At the same time, the presidential election continues to garner high interest: 60 percent of likely voters say they are following news about it very closely, and half (49%) say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in it. But that level of enthusiasm is not shared across parties. While most Democrats (57%) report being more enthusiastic than usual, fewer Republicans (46%) and independents (37%) concur.

“There continues to be high public interest in the presidential race,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “However, Republicans’ lagging enthusiasm about voting could have far-reaching implications for California’s turnout and election outcomes.”

In the US Senate race between two Democratic candidates, Harris leads Sanchez 42 percent to 20 percent, with 20 percent undecided and 18 percent volunteering that they will not vote. Harris also led Sanchez in the September (32% to 25%), July (38% to 20%), and May (34% to 26%) PPIC surveys, which did not include ballot designations. Today, when we exclude the 18 percent of likely voters who say they will not vote for either candidate, Harris leads by 27 points (51% to 24%).

Harris has majority support among Democrats (56%) and leads by 21 points among independents (38% to 17%); 36 percent of Republicans volunteer that they will not vote in this race. Harris leads by wide margins among whites and members of other racial/ethnic groups, though Sanchez has a slight lead among Latinos (41% to 33%). Clinton supporters favor Harris over Sanchez (58% to 21%), while 45 percent of Trump supporters say they will not vote in the US Senate race. About half of likely voters (51%) are satisfied with their choice of candidates in the race, with most Democrats (70%) satisfied. Fewer than half of independents (48%) and only 27 percent of Republicans are satisfied.

Baldassare summed up: “In this US Senate race between two Democrats, Attorney General Kamala Harris has built a two-to-one lead over Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, with more than half of Republicans continuing to say they won’t vote or are undecided about how they will vote.”

Most Prefer Democratic Control of Congress

Attention is focused this election year on whether or not Republicans will maintain control of the US Congress. When California likely voters are asked what they would prefer, 55 percent favor a Congress controlled by Democrats and 35 percent favor Republican control.

The current Congress has a job approval rating of only 17 percent among California likely voters. President Obama’s approval rating is much higher—60 percent.

Support Holds for Propositions 55, 56, and 64

The survey also asks about four statewide ballot initiatives. All require simple majorities to pass.

  • Fewer than half favor Proposition 51. When read the ballot title and label, 46 percent of likely voters would vote yes, 41 percent would vote no, and 12 percent are undecided about this measure, which would authorize the state to issue $9 billion in bonds to fund construction and modernization of K–12 schools and community college facilities. A solid majority of Democratic likely voters (62%) would vote yes on the measure, but fewer than half of independents (45%) and even fewer Republicans (29%) support it. When asked about the importance of the outcome of Proposition 51, 41 percent say it is very important. Supporters are somewhat more likely than opponents to say that the outcome of the vote on this measure is very important to them. In response to a tracking question, the survey finds that support for Proposition 51 (46%) is lower than the level of general support for a state school bond (59%).
  • 59 percent favor Proposition 55. A majority of likely voters say they would vote yes on this measure, which would extend by 12 years the temporary tax increase on earnings over $250,000 (31% no, 10% undecided). Revenue would be allocated to public schools, community colleges, and, in certain years, health care. Asked about the importance of the outcome on this measure, 47 percent say it is very important to them, with supporters more likely than opponents to express this view. Responses to our tracking question show that support for Proposition 55 (59%) is similar to the level of general support for raising state income taxes on high incomes (64%).
  • 56 percent support Proposition 56. A majority of likely voters support this measure to increase the cigarette tax by $2 per pack to fund health care, tobacco use prevention, and law enforcement (38% no, 6% undecided). Majorities of Democratic (69%) and independent (55%) likely voters would vote yes, while Republicans are more divided (45% yes, 50% no). A solid majority of likely voters under age 55 would vote yes. About half of whites (49%) support Proposition 56, while Latinos (80%) and other racial/ethnic groups (65%) are much more likely to favor it. How important is the outcome of this measure? Forty-seven percent say very important. Those who would vote yes (49%) and those who would vote no (48%) are equally likely to call the outcome very important. Responses to our tracking question show that support for Proposition 56 (56%) is somewhat lower than general support for increasing state taxes on cigarette purchases (65%).
  • 55 percent favor Proposition 64. A majority of likely voters would vote yes on this measure to legalize marijuana use under state law by adults 21 and older and tax sales and cultivation (38% no, 6% undecided). Most Democratic (66%) and independent (56%) likely voters support the proposition, but a majority of Republicans (60%) would vote no. Majorities in all regions would vote yes. Just under half of Latino likely voters (47%) would vote yes, while majorities of other racial/ethnic groups (65%) and whites (55%) would do so. Across age groups, support is highest among those age 18 to 34 (78%). About half of likely voters (51%) say the outcome on Proposition 64 is very important. Opponents are more likely than proponents to hold this view (60% to 50%). Responses to our tracking question indicate that support for Proposition 64 (55%) is similar to the level of general support for legalizing the use of marijuana (57%).

“The state school bond continues to struggle to reach the majority needed to pass, while earlier support has held for state propositions that would legalize marijuana, extend the tax increase on the wealthy, and raise taxes on cigarettes,” Baldassare said.

With all seats in the state assembly and about half of the seats in the state senate up for election, the survey asks about the possibility of Democrats—who have a majority in the state legislature—attaining a two-thirds supermajority. Among likely voters, 41 percent say this would be a good thing, while 31 percent say it would be a bad thing and 24 percent say it would make no difference. Asked to assess the current state legislature, likely voters give a job approval rating of 43 percent. The legislature’s rating was much lower four years ago: 21 percent in October 2012. Governor Brown’s approval rating among likely voters is 56 percent today. It was also lower—45 percent—four years ago.

Jobs, Economy Named Most Important Issue

Likely voters are more likely to name jobs and the economy than any other issue as the most important one facing Californians (27%), followed by water and drought (16%). Jobs and the economy is the most frequently named issue across parties.

California likely voters are divided in their views about the state’s economic future, with just under half (46%) saying that California will have good times financially in the next year. They are also divided on the direction of the US economy. Fewer than half (44%) say the nation will have good times financially in the year ahead.

California likely voters also approach the election with low levels of trust in Washington: 69 percent say they think the federal government can be trusted to do what is right only some or none of the time. A large majority say the federal government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves (72%), and only 23 percent say it is run for the benefit of all the people. Most likely voters (62%) also say that people in the federal government waste a lot of taxpayer money. Notably, Trump supporters are far more likely than Clinton supporters to volunteer that the federal government can never be trusted (24% to 3%), to say that it is run by a few big interests (90% to 57%), and to say it wastes a lot of taxpayer money (90% to 43%).

Low Favorability Rating for Republican Party

At the end of a contentious political season, half of California likely voters (50%) have a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, while 24 percent have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party. About a quarter (27%) hold an unfavorable view of both parties. Most likely voters (62%) say that both major parties do such a poor job that a third major party is needed.

“One of the casualties of this national election is Californians’ view of the Republican Party,” Baldassare said. “As the campaign season winds down, many voters across the partisan divide agree that a third major party is needed.”

About the Survey

The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,704 California adult residents—half (852) interviewed on landline telephones and half (852) on cell phones from October 14–23, 2016. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.4 percent for all adults, ±3.7 percent for the 1,358 registered voters, and ±4.3 percent for the 1,024 likely voters. For more information on methodology, see page 21.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.

The Public Policy Institute of California is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We are a public charity. We do not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor do we endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funders or of the staff, officers, advisory councils, or board of directors of the Public Policy Institute of California.