Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in a virtual tie two weeks ahead of the primary election in California, with Sanders eliminating the modest advantage she held two months ago, according to a new statewide poll released late Wednesday.
Clinton leads Sanders 46 percent to 44 percent among Democrats and independents likely to vote on June 7. Her narrowing primary edge in the Public Policy Institute of California survey is well within the margin of error. Clinton was topping Sanders 48 percent to 41 percent in March.
“Definitely the race has tightened up,” Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s president and chief executive, said in an interview.
Clinching California, the largest remaining delegate prize, differs in scope and significance for the Democrats seeking to capture their party’s nomination for the presidency. Clinton and top surrogates, including former President Bill Clinton, argue a victory here maximizes the Democratic Party’s chances of putting up a united front against likely GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump heading into the parties’ conventions in July.
Sanders, admonished by some party elders for his tough and dogged campaigning against Clinton and the establishment, said he’s avoided hitting the likely Democratic nominee in “major areas,” pointing to vulnerabilities like her email troubles or her husband’s affairs. Sanders and supporters note his efforts on the trail, including stops across California, have helped the Vermont senator win unprecedented say over the party’s platform.
PPIC found Clinton hanging on to a small lead over Sanders among registered Democrats, 49 percent to 41 percent. She also fared better with older people, Latinos, and self-described “somewhat liberal” or middle-of-the-road voters.
Sanders is doing well among likely voters under the age of 45 and with independents. Baldassare said a big uncertainty is whether those who decline to state a party preference, many of whom are new registrants, will ultimately vote.
He also questioned how many vote-by-mail independents requested additional paperwork to participate in the Democratic presidential race, or plan to show up in person at the polls to do so. The extra step is at the center of a lawsuit seeking more time to request a Democratic presidential ballot.
“How many are going to be picking up that additional piece of paper?” Baldassare asked.
Unlike the Democrats, the Republican Party allows only its registered voters to participate in the primary.
With Trump dispatching his Republican rivals, there remains some lingering resistance to his candidacy. PPIC asked likely GOP voters if they planned to support Trump, and 67 percent report they’ll choose the New York businessman, while 26 percent say they’ll vote for someone else.
Looking ahead to the fall, Sanders slightly outperforms Clinton when matched up against Trump in California. A more robust fall advantage over the Republican has been a central point of Sanders’ speeches in recent weeks, even as Clinton appears poised to capture the number of requisite delegates, possibly before the polls close in California.
Some 53 percent of likely voters prefer Sanders, 36 percent favor Trump and 11 percent are undecided or would vote for someone else. Though men are about evenly split between the two candidates, Sanders does much better with women, 61 percent to Trump’s 28 percent.
Clinton has the support of 49 percent of likely voters, compared with Trump’s 39 percent. Eleven percent are undecided or prefer someone else. Among independents Clinton gets 51 percent against Trump while Sanders gets 61 percent.