The California Field Poll released this morning shows Hillary Clinton is supported by 39% of likely voters in California’s Democratic Primary to 27% for Barack Obama and 10% for John Edwards. Other candidates receive 4% of the vote in this survey and there is a large undecided vote—20% of these likely voters.
The sample in this poll is small—377 likely voters and the margin of error is 5.2% and some of the results as to subgroups will have a larger margin of error and should be interpreted with caution. Nevertheless, it shows Clinton with a 12 point advantage, down from a 25% edge she had in October and 30 points that she had in August, but at statistically the same level as in the last survey in December.
Both Clinton (77% to 15%) and Obama (74% to 13%) have strong favorable to unfavorable ratings with these voters, which includes not only Democrats but decline-to-state voters who are not affiliated with a party and may vote in the Democratic primary.
We’ve seen volatile shifts of voters in other states in the last days leading up to a presidential vote—even where a preference has been indicated. There is evidence in this poll that day of election turnout and the remaining two weeks of the campaign will be very important and this race is far from over—especially if one looks at the breakdown of vote by mail voters and those who will cast a ballot in their precincts.
Clinton has a 5 point lead (32% to 27%) in those who are expected to vote by mail—many of whom have already voted. This is down from a 40-21% lead she had in December’s survey. These voters are expected to be 43% of the overall vote.
Amongst day of election voters—those who are expected to trek to the polls, she has a much larger 18 point lead, 45% to 27%–and this is where she has gained since the last survey. These voters, 57% of the expected turnout, are subject to being influenced by events that will transpire in the next two weeks—including a possible bump for Obama should he win South Carolina’s primary next Saturday.
One-fifth of both the vote by mail and day of election precinct voters are undecided. The small share of Edwards supporters—10% of the vote would break more for Obama (29%) than Clinton (11%) if he were to drop out of the race (for instance if he has a poor showing in South Carolina) but are not enough to help Obama in anything other than a close election.
Clinton leads Obama by large margins amongst women (43% to 24%), Latinos (59% to 19%), seniors (40% to 18%), non-college graduates, and those with household incomes less than $80,000 per year. Obama leads amongst blacks (a small sample size—58% to 24%), college grads (36% to 29%), and those with household incomes above $80,000.
Clinton has a strong lead over Obama—40% to 27% amongst Democratic likely voters and a narrow 4% lead of 37% to 33%—within the margin of error—with the non-partisan voters expected to turn out. Field predicts that these non registered Democrats will amount to 12% of the total vote—down a little from the 13% in the December survey. Obama was expected to win this segment of the vote and needs to do so in order to have a chance at winning the primary.
Field asked voters about 6 personal characteristics and whether Clinton or Obama have them. Clinton has a strong advantage in 5 of them: that she has the right experience, has the best chance of winning the November general election, best represents what the Democratic Party stands for, will be able to unite the U.S., and cares about people like you. Obama prevailed as the candidate who best represents change.
The most important issues to likely voters in the Democratic primary are health care, the war in Iraq, and jobs and the economy—each with about the same level of importance. These are followed by foreign policy, illegal immigration, taxes and the terrorist threat. Out of those issues, Clinton voters see jobs and the economy as the most important and Obama voters see the Iraq War and foreign policy as the most important.
As we slide into a recession, the shift away from Iraq as the main issue to the economy having equal importance, may be helping Clinton as she is associated with the prosperous boom times the country had under Bill Clinton.
Dan Walters has opined in a column this morning that Clinton may have the race wrapped up in California. As I see it, she definitely has an advantage and a lead at this point, but the race is still up for grabs—especially the delegates.
The statewide winner has bragging rights and should get the most delegates, but the bulk of the action here takes place locally in each of our state’s 53 Congressional Districts. A full 241 of California’s 441 delegates are elected based on the share of the vote the candidates for President receive in these districts for candidates with over 15% of the vote. Both of the two leading candidates will surely be competitive in all or virtually all of these districts. Only 81 delegates are elected “at-large” and go to the winner of the statewide vote.
Elections are determined by those who vote. Today is the last day to register. Re-registering is necessary whenever you move, change your name, or change your political party affiliation. You can download a voter registration form here and mail it in today (must be postmarked January 22nd) or deliver it in person to your local County Registrar of Voters.