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Gavin Newsom Leads Governor's Field, But Electorate Still Largely Undecided

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California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during Day 3 of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on July 27, 2016. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images))

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is still leading the pack among likely voters in next year's governor's race -- but a full one-third of them say they still haven't made up their minds.

The findings come in a poll of 1,200 registered voters, conducted by UC Berkeley's Institute for Government Studies between August 27 and September 5. The survey has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Support for Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor and a Democrat, has consistently hovered around 25 percent this year, according to the pollsters.

His closest Democratic rival, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is still trailing Newsom and lost some ground since IGS' last survey in May. Ten percent of likely voters say they’ll support the Southern California politician, who has been staking out a more moderate position, to the right of Newsom, as he campaigns around the state focused largely on how many areas of California have been left out of the surging economic gains felt along the coast.

The two Republicans in the race -- businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen -- are also garnering around 10 percent support.


And two other Democrats -- Controller John Chiang and Delaine Eastin, who served as state superintendent of public instruction -- are trailing with 7 and 4 percent support, respectively.

Poll director Mark DiCamillo cautioned that the race remains in "very preliminary stages," noting the number of undecided likely voters has only dropped a few percentage points since the last IGS poll on this issue in May.

Voters said that in general, they’re worried about the economy and jobs, health care, crime, state spending and immigration. Among Newsom supporters, health care and climate change are the biggest concerns; for Villaraigosa backers, it's the economy and jobs and health care policies.

And for Republican voters, crime and law enforcement top the list of priorities, followed by the economy and jobs. Backers of Allen, a very conservative Republican, also cited the new gas tax as a big concern.

Undecided voters share many of those same priorities, but also cite state water policies as a big matter of interest.

In a state with a primary system that allows the top-two vote-getters to proceed to the general election, it's possible that the GOP could end up without a candidate before voters next November. Democrats have a nearly 20-point registration advantage over Republicans in California; nearly one-quarter of voters are registered with no party preference.

That makes the demographic breakdown of Newsom and Villaraigosa's supporters interesting. Both do well among Democrats and poorly with Republiacns, while Newsom has far more support from independents.

Newsom also enjoys the strongest backing among African-Americans, Northern California voters and in households with incomes of more than $100,000.

Villaraigosa has strong support among Latinos, voters born outside the U.S. and in households with incomes below $40,000.

But Newsom, a lifelong Bay Area resident, has a bit more backing -- 18 to Villaraigosa's 15 percent -- among Southern California voters.

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