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California 2020: Sanders Positioned to Capture California on Super Tuesday

A new Emerson College/Nexstar Poll of California finds Senator Bernie Sanders in a strong position in California heading into Super Tuesday. Sanders receives 38% support overall, followed by former VP Joe Biden with 21%, Senator Elizabeth Warren with 16%, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg with 11%, Senator Amy Klobuchar with 5%, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard with 1%. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out Sunday evening, was at 7%, and Businessman Tom Steyer, who dropped out late Saturday evening, was at 2%.

Compared to the previous Emerson College poll of California in September, Sanders has gained 12 points, Biden has lost five points, Warren has fallen four points, Buttigieg has risen three points, Klobuchar moved up five points and Gabbard dropped one point.

Sanders has an overwhelming lead with voters under the age of 50, with 48% support among that group. Warren receives the next most support with those voters with 19%, followed by Biden with 11%, and Bloomberg with 9%. Biden leads with voters 50 and older with 32% support, followed by Sanders with 26%, Warren with 13%, and Bloomberg with 12%.

Among women, 33% support Sanders, 22% support Biden, 17% support Warren, and 13% support Bloomberg. No other candidate has above ten percent of women’s support. Among men, 43% support Sanders, 20% support Biden, and 16% support Warren. No other candidate has above ten percent of men’s support.  

Among those who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, 40% now support Joe Biden, 18% support Bernie Sanders, and 15% support Elizabeth Warren. Among those who voted for Sanders in 2016, 63% still support him, and 22% now support Elizabeth Warren. 

Bernie Sanders leads among white voters, with 30% saying they will vote for him. Warren took second place in this group with 23% of the vote, and Biden comes in third with 19%. Bloomberg has 12% of white voters’ support and no other candidate has more than ten percent. Sanders claimed a majority of the support of Latino voters’ support, with 50% of this ethnicity’s support. Biden follows Sanders with 25%. No other candidate has more than ten percent of Latino voters’ support. 

The race is closer among black voters, with 26% supporting Sanders, 24% supporting Biden, 19% supporting Bloomberg, and ten percent supporting each Warren and Buttigieg. Sanders is back up to 50% among Asian voters, followed by Elizabeth Warren with 23% and Biden with 17%. No other candidate has more than ten percent of the Asian vote. 

Looking within ideology, Sanders has a commanding lead among “very liberal” voters at 49%. Following him among those voters is Warren at 32% and no other candidate reaches double digits with that group. Of “somewhat liberal” voters, Sanders leads with 44% followed by Warren and Biden at 16%, and Bloomberg at 12%. But, among “moderate” and “conservative” voters, Biden leads with 32%, followed by Sanders with 31%, and Bloomberg with 13%. 

Of voters who said that they decided on their vote just today, a majority (54%) have decided on Biden. Conversely, of voters who decided more than a month ago, a majority (53%) have chosen Sanders.

Some voters are still not decided on who to support with the primary just two days away. Among respondents who have not voted early, 37% said they could still change their minds in who to support while 63% said they are definitely voting for their preferred candidate. 

Respondents were asked to choose the candidate that they believe has the best healthcare policy; a plurality (40%) chose Sanders. Biden came in second with 20%, followed by Warren with 16%. No other candidate broke into double digits. 


When asked to select which is the single most important issue in deciding their vote for president, healthcare led with 25%, followed by social issues with 22%, the economy with 21%, and the environment with 9%.

Voters were split on the issue of if big tech companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google should be broken up; 34% said yes, 34% said no, and 33% were unsure.

As California has been experiencing increased droughts, wildfires, and worries over rising sea levels alongside climate change, voters were asked if they would be willing to pay more in taxes to help respond to these issues. A plurality, 47%, said they are willing to pay more, 33% are not willing, and 20% are unsure.

California is also in the midst of a homelessness crisis, with approximately 150,000 people living on the streets. When asked if mandatory housing and mental health services should be implemented across the state for homeless people, a majority (63%) said yes, 16% said no, and 22% were unsure.

When asked if they believed the United States is prepared to control the increased risk of the Coronavirus, a majority, 53%, responded no, 30% said yes, and 17% were unsure.

A strong majority, 83%, believe that California police officers should be wearing body cameras at all times while on-duty. 


Caller ID

The California Emerson College/Nexstar poll was conducted February 29-March 1, 2020. The sample for the Democratic Primary consisted of registered Democratic and Independent very likely voters, n=545, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 4.1 percentage points. The data sets were weighted based on gender, age, ethnicity, education, region, and mode based on 2016 turnout model. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only (n=271) and an online panel provided by MTurk (n=274).



Key Takeaways
  • Plurality of Democratic primary voters think Sanders has the best healthcare policy
  • Majority of California Democratic primary voters think US is not prepared to control the increased risk of the Coronavirus
  • Majority of recently decided voters breaking for Biden
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Spencer Kimball
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