The California Field Poll, long considered the “gold standard” in the measuring the attitudes of voters in the Golden State, has today released a poll showing that Hillary Clinton has increased her lead here amongst likely voters for the Democratic nomination and that she has sizeable double digit leads when matched up against Republican candidates for President in the general election.
The California Democratic Primary
Clinton would get 49% of the primary vote if the election were held today, up from 41% that she polled in March. Barack Obama, her closest challenger, has dropped from 28% to 19%, according to this poll. Not only is Clinton close to a majority of California’s likely Democratic voters in the February primary, but she has a 30 point lead over Obama. John Edwards has dropped from 13% to 10%, within the range of error of the poll, but not making any advances here. The rest of the Democratic candidates are at 3% or below. Undecided Democratic voters may have increased from 9% to 12%, and that too is within the confidence level of the poll.
The methodology of the poll was first to read the names of the 8 Democratic contenders and to ask if there was a “god chance,” “some chance,” or “no chance” that the respondent would vote for each. Then reading back the names of those that there was at least “some chance” of their voting for, the questions was asked: “Of these persons, who would be your first choice if the California Democratic primary election for president were being held today?”
The sampling of likely Democratic voters is relatively small–418–and the range of error is listed at 4.7%, although it is not clear from the poll whether that is for the slightly larger sampling of up to 474 likely voters for the general election.
Although the poll did not ask whether those being surveyed had actually made a choice who to vote for and the sample is a bit small, the results are quite strong for Clinton. Obviously this can change with results from the earlier primaries and caucuses, and with the opportunity for gaffes, and the like, but both in the direction the California likely electorate is going and in the sheer size of the lead Clinton has, it has to be worrying the other Democratic contenders.
Table 2, found on page of the poll, shows that Clinton’s support is widespread as she never falls below the 40% level in all the regional, gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, and precinct/absentee voter subgroups. The margin of error of these smaller subgroupings is undoubtedly higher, but nevertheless does not reveal any weaknesses. For instance, in regions, the closest Clinton/Obama race is in the non LA area which breaks down 47% to 24%, and the same percentage applies to the under 39 year old voters, Obama’s strongest subset age wise. Clinton gets 47% of the male vote, only slightly perhaps below the 50% of women who have her as their first choice. The closest spread of 18 points is amongst college graduates where Clinton gets 42% to Obama’s 23%.
The General Election: California’s 55 Electoral Votes
Reading this poll, you will understand why some elements of the Republican Party are trying to change California’s award of electoral votes in a ballot proposition that would appear in June, a scant 4 months before the November election.
Clinton has leads of 15 to 20% over all four of the leading Republican potential nominees. In fact in all of the possible matchups between Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, the Democrat wins. The closest race would be an Edwards-Giuliani race that Edwards wins by 5 points.
Giuliani is the strongest candidate the Republicans could nominate for California’s electoral votes and Clinton beats him 52% to 37%–by 15 points. Obama beats him by 10 points, 48% to 38%.
Romney and Thompson perform abysmally with the California electorate as a whole. Edwards beats Thompson by 25 points–55% to 30%.
Looking a bit deeper, in a general election, California’s Democrats and Republicans will split along party lines, with Republicans peeling off a bit more to support the Democratic nominee in some cases–for instance the 23% of Republicans who would vote for Obama rather than Romney.
But the strongest indicator of November’s election lies in the “non-partisan/other” voters who solidly back any of the leading Democratic nominees over the Republican choice by margins of 18 to 46%.
So much for all the talk of California turning into a purple state or post-partisanship. Ever the more reason for a desperate move by Republicans to change the rules on the Electoral College right before this election. This poll is good news for Hillary Clinton, and even better news for Democrats in this, the largest state in the nation.
You can read the entire poll here–and tell me if you have a different reading of this poll.