California Voter and Party Profiles
- Voter registration is up; the share of independents has increased.
Almost eight in ten eligible adults (79.1%) are registered to vote in California; this is a notable increase from the registration rate in 2015 (72.7%), the year before the previous presidential election. The share of the 19.9 million registered voters who are Democrats (43.1%) is similar (43.2% in 2015), while the share of Republicans (23.6%) has declined (from 28.0%). The share who say they are independent (also known as “decline to state” or “no party preference” voters) has been increasing and is now 28.3%, up from 23.6% in 2015. Our surveys indicate that 45% of those we consider most likely to vote are Democrats, while 27% are Republicans and 23% are independents.
- Most independent likely voters lean toward a major party.
In our surveys over the past year, independent likely voters have been more likely to lean Democratic (43%) than Republican (31%); 26% did not lean toward either major party. These shares have shifted since 2015, when 37% leaned Democratic, 34% leaned Republican, and 29% did not lean toward either party. Independent likely voters are more likely to be moderate (44%) than liberal (28%) or conservative (28%).
- Republicans are more ideologically cohesive than Democrats, but the partisan divide can be stark.
Three in four (75%) Republican likely voters say they are conservative, while 62% of Democratic likely voters describe themselves as liberal. Ideological divisions are especially evident in beliefs about the role of government. For example, when asked whether the federal government is responsible for making sure all Americans have health coverage, 80% of Democratic likely voters say it is a federal responsibility, while 77% of Republicans say health care is not government’s responsibility. Independents lean toward it being government’s responsibility (51%; 40% not government’s responsibility).
- Likely voters are disproportionately white; half of Democratic likely voters are non-white.
Whites make up only 42% of California’s adult population but comprise 58% of likely voters. In contrast, Latinos make up 35% of the state’s adult population but only 19% of likely voters. The shares of Asian American (13%) and African American (6%) likely voters are proportionate to their shares of the state’s adult population—15% for Asian Americans and 6% for African Americans. Half (51%) of Democratic likely voters are white; 24% are Latino, 12% are Asian American, and 10% are African American. An overwhelming majority (76%) of Republican likely voters are white; relatively few are Latino (11%), Asian American (8%), or African American (1%). Among independents, 51% are white, 20% are Asian American, 19% are Latino,
and 6% are African American.
- Demographic characteristics of likely voters vary across parties.
Democratic likely voters are more likely to be women (61%) than men (39%), while independents (55% men, 45% women) and Republicans (52% men, 48% women) are more evenly divided. Independents (44%) and Democrats (43%) are more likely to be college graduates than Republicans are (34%). Three in ten Democrats (30%) have household incomes under $40,000, compared to one in four independents (25%) and two in ten Republicans (21%). Democrats (23%) and independents (23%) are more likely to be young adults (ages 18 to 34) than are Republicans (12%), while Republicans are more likely to be ages 55 and older (60%) than are Democrats (46%) or independents (39%).
- Democrats and Republicans tend to live in different parts of the state.
The regional distribution of likely voters mirrors that of the state’s overall adult population (26% Los Angeles, 20% San Francisco Bay Area, 17% Central Valley, 17% Orange/San Diego, 11% Inland Empire, 9% other counties). Most Democrats live in Los Angeles County (30%) or the San Francisco Bay Area (26%), while most Republicans live in the Central Valley (23%), Orange and San Diego Counties (22%), or Los Angeles County (18%). Independents are most likely to live in Los Angeles County (26%) or the San Francisco Bay Area (26%).
California voter and party profiles
Sources: Nine PPIC Statewide Surveys from September 2018 to July 2019, including 15,165 adults and 9,651 likely voters. California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, February 2019. US Census Bureau, 2013–17 American Community Survey.