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Press Release · February 18, 2020

Sanders Leads in California’s Democratic Presidential Primary

Governor Newsom’s Job Approval Reaches New High

Note: The findings below are from PPIC’s latest statewide survey. PPIC will release the full survey later this week, on Thursday, February 20. The survey report will be available on the PPIC Statewide Survey page.

SAN FRANCISCO, February 18, 2020—With two weeks until California’s presidential primary, a new PPIC statewide survey shows Bernie Sanders leading all other candidates. Sanders is the choice of 32 percent of Democratic primary likely voters, with 14 percent for Joe Biden, 13 percent for Elizabeth Warren, 12 percent for Michael Bloomberg, and 12 percent for Pete Buttigieg. No other candidate has more than 5 percent support; 8 percent are undecided. In January, California’s primary was a three-way race, with 27 percent supporting Sanders, 24 percent for Biden, and 23 percent for Warren.

Among younger voters (age 18 to 44), Sanders (53%) has far more support than other candidates (13% Buttigieg, 13% Warren, 9% Biden, 8% Bloomberg), while voters age 45 and older are more evenly divided (18% Biden, 18% Sanders, 14% Bloomberg, 14% Warren, 11% Buttigieg). Sanders is the top choice among both men (38%) and women (28%) as well as among Latinos (53%).

Asked which candidate has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump, 34 percent say Sanders, 16 percent say Biden, and another 16 percent say Bloomberg.

“Bernie Sanders leads all candidates in the Democratic presidential primary today, and he is most likely to be named by voters as the candidate who can win against Donald Trump in November,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “As the campaign moves to larger and more diverse states, Sanders’ support among Latinos and younger voters is noteworthy.”

PPIC’s latest survey also shows that as Governor Gavin Newsom prepares to deliver his State of the State address tomorrow, most Californians (53%) approve of how he is handling his job, while one-third (33%) disapprove. Democrats (75%) are far more likely to approve than independents (45%) or Republicans (15%).

“Governor Newsom has his highest approval ratings to date—with partisans deeply divided on his performance—in the wake of his second budget release in January and in advance of his State of the State address on Wednesday,” Baldassare said.

About the survey

The Californians and Their Government survey is supported with funding from the Arjay and Frances F. Miller Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the PPIC Donor Circle.

The findings presented above are based on responses from 1,702 California adult residents, including 573 Democratic primary likely voters (Democrats and independent voters who say they will vote in the Democratic primary). The sampling error is ±3.4 percent for the total unweighted sample; for the Democratic primary likely voters, it is ±5.7 percent. Interviewing took place on weekend days and weekday nights from February 7-17, 2020. For the full methodology, see this Crosstabs, Time Trends and Methodology document.

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.