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Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Fact Sheet · September 2021

California’s Likely Voters

Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Rachel Lawler, and Deja Thomas

Supported with funding from the James Irvine Foundation

Nearly nine in ten eligible Californians are registered to vote—the highest rate since 1952.

  • As of July 2021, 22.1 million of California’s 24.8 million eligible adults (88.9%) were registered to vote.
  • The current registration rate is 11 percentage points higher than it was in February 2017 (77.9%), the year preceding the last gubernatorial election.
  • Voter registration and enthusiasm will play a role in the September recall election of Governor Newsom. In the lead up to the 2003 recall of Governor Davis, 70.3% of eligible adults were registered to vote—19 points lower than today.

Likely voters lean Democratic and are ideologically mixed.

  • Among likely voters in our surveys over the past year, 48% are Democrats, 26% are Republicans, 22% are independents, and 5% are registered with other parties. Of those we consider infrequent voters, 40% are Democrats, 37% are independents, 19% are Republicans, and 4% are registered with other parties.
  • Ideologically, 40% of likely voters are politically liberal, 29% are moderate, and 31% are conservative. Among infrequent voters, 28% say they are liberal, 43% are moderate, and 29% are conservative.

Independent likely voters and unregistered adults lean Democratic.

  • Among independent likely voters, 52% lean toward the Democratic Party, compared to 36% who lean toward the Republican Party and 12% who volunteer that they lean toward neither major party or are unsure.
  • Among independent infrequent voters, 47% lean Democratic, 31% lean Republican, and 22% lean toward neither party or are unsure.
  • Among unregistered adults, 53% lean Democratic, 23% lean Republican, and 24% lean toward neither party or are unsure.

Likely voters are disproportionately white.

  • Whites make up only 41% of California’s adult population but 54% of the state’s likely voters. In contrast, Latinos comprise 35% of the adult population but just 22% of likely voters. Asian Americans make up 16% of adults and 14% of likely voters, while 6% of both adults and likely voters are African American. “Other race” and multiracial adults make up 2% of the adult population and 4% of likely voters.
  • About six in ten unregistered adults are Latino (63%); fewer are white (18%), Asian American (15%), or African American (2%).

Likely voters tend to be older, more educated and affluent, homeowners, and US born.

  • Californians age 55 and older make up 34% of the state’s adult population but constitute 46% of likely voters. Young adults (age 18 to 34) make up 32% of the population but only 24% of likely voters, while adults age 35 to 54 are proportionally represented.
  • Eight in ten likely voters either have some college education (40%) or are college graduates (41%); 19% have no college education.
  • Fifty percent of likely voters have annual household incomes of $80,000 or more, while 27% earn between $40,000 and under $80,000 and 23% earn $40,000 or less.
  • A strong majority of likely voters are homeowners (66%), while a third are renters. In contrast, 69% of unregistered adults and 63% of infrequent voters are renters.
  • Eighty-three percent of likely voters were born in the United States.
  • Women (51%) and men (49%) make up similar shares of California’s likely voters.
Sources and Notes

Topics

Political Landscape Population Statewide Survey