Just the FACTS
Race and Voting in California
- Voter turnout continues to lag among nonwhite Californians.
Our surveys over the past year indicate that 45% of Latino adult citizens, 53% of Asian American adult citizens, and 57% of African American adult citizens are likely to vote, compared to 68% of non-Hispanic white adult citizens. The state’s likely voter population is disproportionately white: according to US Census estimates, whites make up 42% of the state’s adult population, but our surveys find that they comprise 58% of the state’s likely voters. Latinos—California’s largest racial/ethnic group—represent 35% of the adult population, but they account for only 19% of those most likely to vote. Asian Americans comprise 15% of the adult population and 13% of likely voters. The share of African American likely voters matches their representation in the adult population (6%).
- Most African American and Latino likely voters are Democrats.
An overwhelming majority of African American likely voters (72%) and a majority of Latino likely voters (58%) are registered as Democrats. Among Asian American likely voters, four in ten (43%) are registered as Democrats, 18% as Republicans, and 36% as independents (previously called “decline to state” and now called “no party preference” voters). Party registration among white likely voters is more evenly divided, with 40% registered as Democrats, 35% as Republicans, and 20% as independents.
- Within racial/ethnic groups, likely voters are ideologically divided.
Thirty-nine percent of Latino likely voters identify themselves as politically liberal, while 30% identify as middle-of-the-road and 31% identify as conservative. White likely voters are as likely to identify as liberal (36%) as they are to identify as conservative (38%); 26% call themselves middle-of-the-road. African American and Asian American likely voters are much more likely to be ideologically liberal (42% and 44%, respectively) than conservative (28% and 24%).
- Asian American and Latino likely voters tend to be young; income and education levels vary.
Asian American (76%) and Latino (70%) likely voters are more likely than African American (49%) and white (42%) likely voters to be younger than 55. Indeed, about one in three Asian American and Latino likely voters are younger than 35, compared to only 14% of African Americans and 12% of whites. About one in four Latino likely voters (26%) and three in ten African American likely voters (28%) are college graduates, compared to 43% of white and 61% of Asian American likely voters. Pluralities of Latino and African American likely voters (39% and 37%) have household incomes of less than $40,000, while about three in ten earn $80,000 or more (32% Latinos, 29% African Americans). In contrast, at least half of Asian American and white likely voters (53% and 51%) earn $80,000 or more.
- Most likely voters are native born, but more than half of Asian American likely voters are immigrants.
Nearly all African American and white likely voters are native-born US citizens (93% and 93%), compared to 71% of Latino likely voters; Asian American likely voters are slightly more likely to be naturalized than native-born citizens (52% to 48%). In 2019 surveys, strong majorities of African American (90%) and Latino (70%) likely voters have disapproved of the way President Trump is handling his job, as have majorities of Asian American (68%) and white (56%) likely voters. Asian Americans (60%), African American (58%), and Latino (68%) likely voters are more likely to favor California making its own policies—separate from the federal government—to protect the legal rights of undocumented immigrants in the state (48% whites).
Race and voting in California
Sources: Nine PPIC Statewide Surveys from September 2018 to July 2019, including 9,651 likely voters. 2000 US Census; 2013–2017 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, US Census Bureau.