Poll Finds Presidential Race Still Wide-Open in California

Democratic presidential hopefuls Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (L), former Vice President Joe Biden (C) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren arrive onstage for the fourth Democratic presidential primary debate in Westerville, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Days before the leading Democrats square off at a presidential debate in Los Angeles, a new Change Research poll conducted for KQED finds no candidate has locked down a solid lead among likely voters.

The online poll, taken December 6-10, finds Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as the top choice of 26% of Democrats, followed closely by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 23%, former Vice President Joe Biden at 19% and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 12%. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% among Democratic primary voters.


Sanders' strongest demographic groups are men (36%), voters under the age of 49 and Latinos (37%). Warren is performing best with women (26%), but her support is fairly evenly distributed among different age groups.

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Among Californian's black voters, Biden retains his solid support with 47%, followed by Warren (13%) and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (12%).

The top choice of Asian voters is Biden with 32%, followed by tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang with 28%.

“Interesting to note that when it comes to nonwhite voters, we see that Julián Castro and Andrew Yang can count on widespread support from Latino/Asian voters respectively, but the same is not true for African American voters, who as in South Carolina, overwhelmingly support Biden,” said Change Research co-founder Pat Reilly.

Buttigieg, who has struggled to gain traction with nonwhite voters nationwide, is finding that same resistance to his candidacy in California: He is the top choice among only 7% of Asian Americans, 4% of Latinos and 3% of African Americans.

Just over 75% of Democrats say they're satisfied with their choice of candidates, while 23% wish there were “better choices.”


Asked to select up to five candidates who most excited them, Warren was picked by 61% of Democratic primary voters, followed by Sanders (52%), Joe Biden (42%) and Pete Buttigieg (38%).

This is the first statewide Change Research survey since California Sen. Kamala Harris dropped out of the race earlier this month. In Change Research's last California poll, in October, Harris had 8% support. The only remaining California candidate, billionaire Tom Steyer, has just 2% support from Democratic primary voters.

“Harris' exit hasn't caused that much of a shake-up,” said Reilly. “Those voters that hold a favorable view of Harris lean heavily towards Warren, but it's not enough to propel Warren to surpass Sanders.”


Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who entered the race just two weeks ago, is the first choice of 3% of Democratic primary voters in California, and the second choice of 8%. Bloomberg, who is peppering the state with TV ads, won endorsements this week from two mayors, Sam Liccardo of San Jose and Stockton's Michael Tubbs.

The survey also found that Bloomberg has a relatively high unfavorable rating, of 37%, compared with 31% who view him positively. The only Democratic candidate with higher negatives is Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, with 40% of voters saying they have unfavorable feelings about her.

A labor dispute involving workers at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the site of Thursday night's debate, is threatening to derail the event. All seven Democrats invited to appear on the stage say they won't cross a union picket line if the conflict isn't resolved.

Graphics by KQED's Matthew Green

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