Newsom, Villaraigosa lead next year’s Governor’s race

November 30, 2017 9:00pm
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•  However, many voters say they’re undecided

•  Half of likely voters prefer that candidates push back against Trump

Six months before the 2018 California gubernatorial primary, Democrats Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa are leading in the top-two primary race among likely voters, according to a new poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

In the US Senate primary, incumbent Dianne Feinstein leads fellow Democrat Kevin de León by a two-to-one margin in a matchup of the two candidates.

With about a third of likely voters (30 percent) undecided, 23 percent would vote for Mr. Newsom, the state’s lieutenant governor, and 18 percent would vote for Mr. Villaraigosa, former Los Angeles mayor. Fewer choose Democrat John Chiang (9 percent), the state treasurer; Republican and businessman John Cox (9 percent); Republican Travis Allen (6 percent), a state assemblyman; or Democrat Delaine Eastin (3 percent), former state superintendent of public instruction.

Among Democratic likely voters, Mr. Newsom leads Mr. Villaraigosa by 8 points (34 percent to 26 percent), with 20 percent undecided. Among Republicans, Mr. Cox leads Mr. Allen by 9 points (27 percent to 18 percent), with 37 percent undecided. Independents prefer Mr. Newsom to Mr. Villaraigosa (24 percent to 15 percent), with 35 percent undecided. Hispanic likely voters are most likely to choose Mr. Villaraigosa (42 percent). Whites are most likely to be undecided (33 percent). (Sample sizes for Asian American and African American likely voters are too small for separate analysis.)

About half of likely voters (48 percent) are satisfied with their choice of candidates in the primary (31 percent not satisfied, 22 percent don’t know). Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to be satisfied (61 percent to 30 percent), and 43 percent of independents are satisfied. Only about a quarter of likely voters are following news of the gubernatorial candidates very closely (7 percent) or fairly closely (18 percent).

Before being asked about their primary preferences, likely voters were asked to give their impressions of six gubernatorial candidates. More than a quarter of likely voters have favorable opinions of Mr. Newsom (39 percent), Mr. Villaraigosa (31 percent), and Mr. Chiang (27 percent). Fewer have favorable opinions of Ms. Eastin (12 percent), Mr. Allen (10 percent), and Mr. Cox (10 percent).

Notably, majorities of likely voters say they have not heard of Ms. Eastin or Messrs. Allen and Cox. More than half of Republican likely voters say they have never heard of Republican candidates Messrs. Allen and Cox.

Feinstein Leads across Regions and Racial/Ethnic Groups

Ms. Feinstein — who is seeking her fifth full US Senate term — leads Mr. de León, the state senate president pro tempore, 45 percent to 21 percent, with a third of likely voters (33 percent) undecided. (Only candidates with significant news coverage and resources were included in this survey.)

“Senator Feinstein is leading in the top-two U.S. Senate primary next June — reflecting the incumbent’s favorability rating — while the challenger is not well known,” says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Among Democrats, Ms. Feinstein leads 66 percent to 16 percent. With no prominent Republicans in the race, most Republican likely voters (55 percent) are undecided (25 percent support Mr. de León, 18 percent support Ms. Feinstein).

Ms. Feinstein is ahead among independents (43 percent to 20 percent), with 35 percent undecided. She leads by double digits among Hispanics, whites, and other racial/ethnic groups, as well as among men (40 percent to 23 percent) and women (50 percent to 18 percent). She has majority support among likely voters in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Inland Empire and leads by double digits across other regions.

Half of likely voters (51 percent) have a favorable view of Ms. Feinstein and 39 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Half (48 percent) have not heard of Mr. de León, while 17 percent say they have a favorable opinion of him and 19 percent an unfavorable one (17 percent unsure).

New Ideas or Experience? Voters Split over Which Is More Important

Asked about the attributes that are important in a candidate for statewide office, about half of likely voters (48 percent) prefer new ideas and a different approach, while 42 percent prefer experience and a proven record. Most Democrats (55 percent) favor experience, while majorities of Republicans (60 percent) and independents (54 percent) choose new ideas. Asked a similar question about presidential candidates in December 2015, 46 percent of likely voters favored new ideas and 44 percent favored experience.

Is it more important that candidates for statewide office work with the Trump administration or push back against it? Half of likely voters (51 percent) prefer that candidates push back, while 41 percent prefer that candidates work with the administration.

About the survey

This PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from the James Irvine Foundation, the California Endowment, and the PPIC Donor Circle. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,704 California adult residents, including 1,108 interviewed on cell phones and 596 interviewed on landline telephones. Interviews took place from November 10–19, 2017. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.4 percent for all adults, ±3.9 percent for the 1,391 registered voters, and ±4.3 percent for the 1,070 likely voters.

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