Wide differences observed by party and across the state’s five major regions
A new survey of Californians likely to vote in the state’s upcoming June 7 presidential primary examines the issues voters in the nation’s largest state consider most important when deciding whom to support for president. The study was conducted on behalf of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute by The Field Poll.
Jobs and the economy emerges as the California electorate’s top ranking issue, with three in four likely voters (74%) considering it among their most important issues in this year’s presidential election. Concerns about the economy cross party lines, with greater than seven in ten likely voters in both the state’s Democratic and Republican presidential primaries rating it among their top issues. There is also general consensus among Democratic and Republican primary election voters about the importance of health care, education/public schools, and Social Security, with likely voters in both parties ranking each among their top ten campaign issues.
However, there are big partisan differences in the relative importance of many of the other top issues
in this year’s presidential campaign. For example, likely voters in California’s Democratic presidential
primary are far more likely than their Republican counterparts to consider the following as salient
campaign issues, and rank them among their top ten issues – climate change, income inequality, college affordability, equal pay for women, ensuring clean air/water, and keeping the U.S. out of war.
On the other hand, California’s Republican primary voters are more likely than their Democratic primary voters to include reducing the deficit/size of government, the terrorist threat/protecting the homeland, reducing taxes, immigration, Supreme Court appointments, and trade policies among their top ten issues in the presidential campaign.
The following table ranks the relative importance of the twenty-one issues measured in the survey
among California’s overall primary electorate, and how likely voters in the Democratic presidential
primary and those likely to vote in the Republican primary rate each issue.
The survey also examined the relative importance of the twenty-one issues across the five major regions of California. These regions, in order of their share of the likely voter electorate, include: (1) Los Angeles County, the state’s and the nation’s largest county, (2) the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes the nine counties that touch the San Francisco Bay, (3) the South Coast, which includes the counties of San Diego and Orange south of Los Angeles, (4) the Central Valley, a vast region which includes sixteen, primarily farm belt, counties in the state’s interior, and (5) the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties to the east of Los Angeles.
The survey finds a number of different issue priorities among likely voters in each region. For example:
The survey also finds prominent regional differences with regard to where voters stand on some of
the presidential campaign’s most contentious issues. For example:
Another contentious policy issue in the presidential campaign relates to energy policies and whether it is more important to end our dependence on fossil fuels by promoting clean energy alternatives
versus continuing to promote all energy sources, including oil and gas. On this issue, however, there
is considerably greater regional consensus, with likely voters in each region attaching greater importance to promoting clean energy alternatives than to expanding the development of all of America’s energy sources, including oil and gas.
California voters will also be voting this year to fill the U.S. Senate seat now held by retiring Senator Barbara Boxer. Likely voters in this survey were asked which quality they felt was a more important one for a U.S. Senate candidate – working with other lawmakers to get laws passed even if it means making compromises or holding true to one’s beliefs even if it means not comprising with other lawmakers.
By a large 69% to 27% margin the state’s likely voters say they would prefer the candidate who is willing to make compromises to get legislature passed over one who holds true to their beliefs without compromise. There is general consensus about this across voters of all political stripes, with
majorities of both Democratic and Republican likely voters, as well as voters across the state’s five major geographic regions favoring this quality in a U.S. Senate candidate.
Bonnie Reiss, USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, 310-295-7161
Mark DiCamillo, The Field Poll, 415-530-5613
The findings in this report are based on a telephone survey of 1,001 California registered voters considered likely to vote in the state’s June 2016 presidential primary by The Field Poll. The survey was conducted on behalf of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.
Interviewing was administered May 4-11, 2016 in English and Spanish using live interviewers working from
a central location call center. Individual voters were sampled at random from listings derived from the state’s official voter rolls. Once a voter’s name and telephone number had been selected, interviews were attempted with that voter on either their landline or cell phone, depending on the source of the telephone listing on the voter file and the preference of the voter. Up to four attempts were made to reach, screen and interview each randomly selected voter on different days and times of day during the interviewing period. In this survey 55% of likely voters in the Democratic presidential primary and 50% of likely voters in the Republican primary were interviewed on their cell phone.
After the completion of interviewing, the sample was weighted to Field Poll estimates of the demographic, geographic and party registration characteristics of the state’s likely Democratic and Republican presidential primary electorates.
Sampling error estimates applicable to the results of any probability-based survey depend on both sample
size, and the percentage distribution being examined. The maximum sampling error for results from the overall likely voter sample is +/- 3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The maximum sampling error is based on results in the middle of the response distribution (i.e., percentages at or near 50%). Percentages at either end of the distribution (those closer to 10% or 90%) have a smaller margin of error. There are other potential sources of error in any survey besides sampling error. However, the overall design and execution of this survey made every effort to minimize these other possible errors.
When considering this year’s election for President, how important are the candidates’ positions on each of the following issues in deciding whom to support? (ISSUES READ ONE AT A TIME IN RANDOM ORDER,
ASKING:) Is this among the most important issues to you, an important issue but not among the most
important, or not an important issue?
(Abortion) (Making appointments to the Supreme Court) (Addressing climate change) (Fighting
terrorism and protecting the homeland) (Addressing income inequality) (Ensuring equal pay for women)
(Charting the nation’s future energy policies) (Ensuring clean air and safe drinking water) (Education and the public schools) (Keeping America out of war) (Gun laws) (Addressing the nation’s health care
policies) (Immigration) (Jobs and the economy) (Making college more affordable) (Race relations)
(Reducing taxes) (Policies relating to same-sex marriage and the LGBT community) (Protecting Social
Security) (U.S. trade policies) (Reducing the deficit and size of the federal government).
IF ENERGY POLICIES RATED AMONG MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES: You cited charting the nation’s future energy policies among your most important issues. When thinking about energy, which do you think is more
important: (STATEMENT ORDER ROTATED TO AVOID SEQUENCE BIAS)
1. ending our dependence on fossil fuels by promoting clean energy alternatives
2. expanding development of all energy sources including oil and natural gas
IF GUN LAWS RATED AMONG MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES: You cited gun laws among your most important issues. When thinking about gun laws, which do you think is more important: (STATEMENT ORDER ROTATED
TO AVOID SEQUENCE BIAS)
1. imposing greater controls on gun ownership to reduce gun violence in America
2. protecting Americans’ 2nd amendment right to bear arms
IF IMMIGRATION RATED AMONG MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES: You cited immigration among your most important issues. When thinking about immigration, which is more important to you: (STATEMENT ORDER ROTATED TO AVOID SEQUENCE BIAS)
1. stopping illegal immigration and securing the border
2. creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who currently live in this country
IF HEALTH CARE RATED AMONG MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES: You cited addressing the nation’s health care
policies among your most important issues. When thinking about the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obama Care, which is more important to you: (STATEMENT ORDER ROTATED TO AVOID SEQUENCE BIAS)
1. expanding what the law does to get more people insured
2. scaling back or repealing the law
Californians will also be voting to elect a new U.S. Senator this year. When thinking about your vote for U.S. Senate, which of the following two qualities in a U.S. Senator do you think is more important: (STATEMENT ORDER ROTATED TO AVOID SEQUENCE BIAS)
1. holding true to one’s beliefs and principles even if it means not compromising with other lawmakers
2. working with other lawmakers to get legislation passed even if it means making some compromises
About the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy
The USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy is committed to advancing post-partisanship,
where leaders put people over political parties and work together to find the best ideas and solutions to
benefit the people they serve. The Institute seeks to influence public policy and public debate in finding solutions to the serious challenges we face. While the Institute engages on a variety of critical policy areas, a primary focus is climate change, which reflects Governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership on the issue and it being one of the defining challenges of our generation. www.schwarzeneggerinstitute.com
About The Field Poll
The Field Poll was established in 1947 as The California Poll by Mervin Field. The Poll has operated continuously since then as an independent, non-partisan public opinion and policy survey of the state of California. During its long history, The Field Poll has issued over 2,500 reports on California public opinion, and has acquired a national reputation as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of public opinion trends in California.
Mark DiCamillo has served as Director of The Field Poll since 1993 and is a recognized authority and frequent speaker on opinion trends in California. More than 20 years of Field Poll releases authored or coauthored by Mr. DiCamillo can be found online at www.field.com/fieldpollonline.
The Field Poll‘s track record in measuring voter preferences in all statewide election contests for President, Governor and U.S. Senate can be found at www.field.com/fieldpoll/candidates.html.