Wealthier, white voters and people from the Bay Area like Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Los Angeles residents tend to prefer their former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also gets support from households of modest means and Latinos.
The two have settled into first and second place in the race to replace Gov. Jerry Brown, according to the latest California gubernatorial poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.
Overall, Newsom leads, 26 percent to 17 percent for Villaraigosa, as they head toward a June primary that will advance the top two regardless of party to a November general election.
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But they clearly have different sources of support.
“It’s almost a classic profile because you have the white establishment candidate within the Democratic Party versus the ethnic candidate and the expanding demographic of ethnic voters,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo. “It’s socioeconomic. It’s ethnic. It’s regional. It’s like the old Democratic Party versus the new Democratic Party in California.”
Newsom enjoys a considerable advantage over his chief rival among voters from households earning more than $100,000 a year, 33 percent to 11 percent. Villaraigosa leads the former San Francisco mayor among families that make less than $40,000 annually, 29 percent to 22 percent.
Newsom, who formerly served as San Francisco mayor, gets his strongest backing from the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, where he is drubbing Villaraigosa, 55 percent to 6 percent. Newsom also does far better with white voters – 32 percent to Villaraigosa’s 9 percent – and those born in the U.S.
Villaraigosa leads by double digits in his native Los Angeles County. He more than doubles Newsom with immigrants and is ahead handily with Latinos, 39 percent to 16 percent.
Both Newsom and Villaraigosa backers expressed the belief that the next governor should continue policies set by Brown, although Villaraigosa’s supporters were a little less likely to do so. Undecided voters were more inclined to be interested in change, 62 to 28 percent.
Despite his standing, Villaraigosa was the only candidate in the poll viewed more unfavorably than favorably, 30 percent to 28 percent. Some 36 percent of likely voters had a favorable view of Newsom, compared with 21 percent unfavorable.
The Southern California-based Republicans in the race, Assemblyman Travis Allen of Orange County and John Cox, a wealthy businessman from San Diego County, were tied for third place at 9 percent each, despite the fact that Cox has spent considerably more money.
Thirty-six percent of Republicans were undecided.
Republican Doug Ose, a former three-term congressman from the Sacramento area, is being urged to run by Republicans who see him as having the best chance of advancing beyond the primary. That’s become an increasingly important task given the number of potentially endangered GOP House members running across the state who could use a Republican at the top-of-the-ticket to boost turnout.
“I am continuing to consider the challenge of running for governor,” Ose said Wednesday. “If I can find a path, I am going to run.”
Democrats John Chiang, the state treasurer, and Delaine Eastin, the former state superintendent of public instruction, trailed with 5 percent support.
The UC Berkeley poll also tested next year’s Senate race, where U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein leads Democratic rival Kevin de León by 14 points, 41 percent to 27 percent.
Feinstein, first elected in 1992, is infinitely better known, with 45 percent having a favorable view of her and 42 percent unfavorable. Nearly eight in 10 voters had no opinion of de León, suggesting they have never heard of the state Senate leader from Los Angeles.
Nearly a third of likely voters are undecided or say they would support another candidate in that contest. No Republican has yet emerged.