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Bernie Sanders Pulls Away From Pack in California

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Tom Steyer (L) speaks as (L-R) Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) react during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on Jan. 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Just days before the first votes of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary are cast in the Iowa caucuses, a new Change Research poll for KQED shows Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders opening up a large lead over his rivals here in California.

Sanders is favored by 30% of voters likely to cast ballots in the state's Democratic primary on March 3, according to the survey. Distantly trailing him in second and third place in the state are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (16%) and former Vice President Joe Biden (15%).

"Bernie Sanders tops the field here in California, but our monthly polling shows it's been a slow and steady climb for him throughout 2019," said Change Research co-founder Pat Reilly.

"Similar to Change Research polls elsewhere, Sanders is strongest among younger voters, with Biden picking up with voters over 50," Reilly said.


Sanders' strength in California comes from voters aged 18-34, with 53% supporting him, the poll shows. Sanders is also the top choice of Latino voters (36%) and Asian American voters (27%).

Meanwhile, Biden has retained his lead among California's African American voters, with 35% supporting him and 27% supporting Sanders.

Rounding out the field, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg placed fourth in the poll, favored by 8% of Californians likely to vote in the Democratic primary, while entrepreneur Andrew Yang registered 5% support. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and billionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg were the top choice of just 4%, followed by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (3%) and billionaire Californian Tom Steyer (2%).

No candidate can receive any delegates in the California primary without reaching 15% of the vote.

Just days before Californians will begin receiving ballots in the mail, 13% of Democratic voters say they remain undecided. But 95% of voters who did choose a favorite candidate said there was little or no chance they'd change their mind.

The results show both the limits and the power of large media buys for Bloomberg, who is pouring millions into TV advertisements in markets throughout the state.

"Bloomberg's advertising blitz hasn't yet had an impact statewide, but we've seen how that can change quickly," Reilly said. "Might be too soon to have an impact in a state the size of California, versus the impact advertising clearly had for [Tom] Steyer in South Carolina and Nevada."

On one non-political topic — the Super Bowl — 37% think the San Francisco 49ers will win Sunday, while 16% believe the Kansas City Chiefs will come out on top. Nearly half of respondents — 48% — say they're not sure.

And when it comes to news coverage, only 23% of Californians say they've heard "a lot" about the NFL's premiere game over the past couple weeks, compared with those who say they've heard a lot about impeachment (87%), the Australian wildfires (66%) and the coronavirus outbreak (54%).

The poll is based on 1,967 interviews collected online from Jan. 25-27, 2020. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4% for Democrats and 5.2% for Republicans.

Charts produced by KQED's Matthew Green

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