Analysis

Exit polls on key statewide races

The sign outside a Sacramento voting center. (Photo: Tim Foster, Capitol Weekly)

Since 2015 Capitol Weekly has been conducting polling to inform readers about policy and politics in the Golden State.  This latest installment is an exit poll of voters compiled by Capitol Weekly using data and tools from Political Data, Inc.

This polling focuses on early voters who cast ballots in the mail or at voting centers.

The full survey includes more than 11,000 respondents surveyed over a three-week period of ballot returns. All respondents were presented with the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate contests, and then assigned to one of the other competitive statewide races.

This early-vote exit polling is not intended to predict the final outcome, but it should be a good projection of the first vote tabulations that will be done on Election Night.  These usually appear immediately after the 8 p.m. close of voting at the polls, and are referred to as the “801s.”

The findings are weighted to the actual share of the electorate as of June 2, based on the age, ethnicity, partisanship and geography of the 2.1 million votes cast.

Being representative of the by-mail voting population means that it is not intended to reflect the full electorate that will show up to vote.  As we have reported in Capitol Weekly, the early voting population is older, more conservative, whiter, more homeowners and fewer renters, and skews even more the Bay Area over Los Angeles than the final electorate.

To see the composition of the ballots that have been returned to date, you can check the Political Data trackers on your phone or desktop. And if you want to see Paul Mitchell’s look-ahead story from 2016 on the outlook for the 2018 governor’s race, click here. 

For each race we will have a brief summary and some analysis, and then we’ll provide a link to the detailed cross-tabs, breaking down that contest into partisan, age, ethnic and regional votes.

One remarkable factoid: A significant number of respondents don’t recall who they voted for, as you’ll see in the following tables.

Governor
In the race for governor, there appears a clear top two: Gavin Newsom with 33% of the early vote, and John Cox at 23%.  The early vote has Travis Allen at 12% and Antonio Villaraigosa at 10%, however it is expected that Villaraigosa should out-perform on Election Day voting, bringing this number up as more Angelinos, young and Latino voters head to the polls.

Even so, Villaraigosa did not perform as well as many had expected, despite heavy support from charter school interests, who spent an over $20 million in independent expenditures on his behalf.

“We’d like to believe that $20 million would have some impact, even in a state as large as California, but we have plenty of evidence that huge amounts of money can be spent promoting candidates while having no impact on the outcome,” said veteran political strategist Darry Sragow. “What a lot of political insiders overlook is that voters are looking at candidates as people, and just because a candidate has a lot of money is not, by itself, persuasive.”

Wayne Johnson, who handled businessman John Cox’s gubernatorial campaign, said his strategy from the beginning was to run for first place, not the second spot in a top-two primary.

“Their flawed strategy was that Villaraigosa ran for the second spot,” Johnson said. “Everybody who wanted to be second came in third or fourth or fifth.”

GAVIN NEWSOM Lieutenant Governor/Businessman (Democratic) 35%
JOHN H. COX Businessman/Taxpayer Advocate (Republican) 22%
TRAVIS ALLEN California Assemblyman/Businessman (Republican) 12%
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA Public Policy Advisor (Democratic) 9%
JOHN CHIANG California State Treasurer (Democratic) 8%
DELAINE EASTIN Educator/Youth Advocate (Democratic) 3%
AMANDA RENTERIA COO, Justice Department (Democratic) 1%
Don’t recall 7%

 

Among voters casting ballots for one of the Democratic candidates, Newsom maintained a healthy lead for the entire period of the exit polling.*

May 13, 2018 May 20, 2018 May 27, 2018
GAVIN NEWSOM Lieutenant Governor/Businessman (Democratic) 63% 61% 63%
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA Public Policy Advisor (Democratic) 16% 17% 15%
JOHN CHIANG California State Treasurer (Democratic) 13% 14% 13%
DELAINE EASTIN Educator/Youth Advocate (Democratic) 5% 6% 6%
AMANDA RENTERIA COO, Justice Department (Democratic) 1% 1% 2%

* among voters who selected a Democratic candidate

Similarly, among voters casting ballots for the Republican candidates, the race was rather consistent, with Cox beginning with a 20-point lead over Travis Allen, expanding that to a 30-point lead in the last week.*

May 13, 2018 May 20, 2018 May 27, 2018
JOHN H. COX Businessman/Taxpayer Advocate (Republican) 59% 62% 65%
TRAVIS ALLEN California Assemblyman/Businessman (Republican) 39% 36% 34%

* among voters who selected a Republican candidate

There were significant differences in voting based on ideology, with Newsom clearly capturing the Liberal vote, and Cox having his strongest support among self-identified conservatives.

Liberal Moderate Conservative
GAVIN NEWSOM Lieutenant Governor/Businessman (Democratic) 63% 33% 3%
JOHN H. COX Businessman/Taxpayer Advocate (Republican) 1% 18% 52%
TRAVIS ALLEN California Assemblyman/Businessman (Republican) 1% 11% 30%
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA Public Policy Advisor (Democratic) 11% 13% 3%
JOHN CHIANG California State Treasurer (Democratic) 10% 10% 2%
DELAINE EASTIN Educator/Youth Advocate (Democratic) 7% 2% 0%
AMANDA RENTERIA COO, Justice Department (Democratic) 1% 1% 0%
Don’t recall 5% 10% 7%

 

In order to gain the second spot, Villaraigosa would have to achieve his potential with Latinos, see an increase in their turnout, and see strong numbers in Los Angeles among Election Day voters.  Otherwise, the November General Election will be a runoff between Newsom and Cox.

View detailed governor’s race crosstabs here.

Lieutenant Governor
The race for lieutenant governor shows a strong lead for Eleni Kounalakis, and a tight battle for the second spot between Senator Ed Hernandez and the leading Republican candidate, Cole Harris.

ELENI KOUNALAKIS Businesswoman/Economic Advisor (Democratic) 24%
ED HERNANDEZ State Senator/Businessman (Democratic) 14%
COLE HARRIS Father/Entrepreneur/Businessman (Republican) 13%
JEFF BLEICH Attorney/Educator (Democratic) 6%
DAVID R. HERNANDEZ Retired Business Owner (Republican) 5%
DAVID FENNELL Entrepreneur (Republican) 4%
LYDIA ORTEGA Economist/Businesswoman/Educator (Republican) 4%
GAYLE MCLAUGHLIN Community Organizer/Educator (No Party Preference) 3%
TIM FERREIRA Strategist/Programmer/Entrepreneur (Libertarian) 1%
CAMERON GHARABIKLOU Attorney (Democratic) 1%
DANNY THOMAS Dentist/Dental Surgeon (No Party Preference) 0%
Don’t recall 25%

The lieutenant governor’s race has shown a closing for Kounalakis, likely the result of her outspending state Sen. Ed Hernandez in the later stages of the campaign.

The race essentially began in a dead heat, but by the second week of voting Kounalakis began to take a significant lead, and by the third week, the Republican candidate, Cole Harris, began to overtake Hernandez, with a quarter of early voters not recalling who they voted for.

 

May 13, 2018 May 20, 2018 May 27, 2018
ELENI KOUNALAKIS Businesswoman/Economic Advisor (Democratic) 32% 38% 44%
ED HERNANDEZ State Senator/Businessman (Democratic) 32% 26% 21%
COLE HARRIS Father/Entrepreneur/Businessman (Republican) 24% 23% 22%
JEFF BLEICH Attorney/Educator (Democratic) 11% 12% 13%

View detailed Lieutenant Governor crosstabs here:

Attorney General
The attorney general’s race shows a healthy lead for Attorney General Xavier Becerra over Republican Steven Bailey, followed by fellow Republican Eric Early.

XAVIER BECERRA* Appointed Attorney General of the State of California (Democratic) 40%
STEVEN C BAILEY Retired California Judge (Republican) 20%
ERIC EARLY Attorney/Business Owner (Republican) 11%
DAVE JONES California Insurance Commissioner (Democratic) 8%
Don’t recall 21%

 

The lack of consolidation around either of the Republican candidates could provide an opportunity for Jones to leap ahead of both and into the second spot to earn a place on the November ballot.  However, it appears that the partisan vote for Becerra has been incredibly strong (the strongest partisan support for any candidate analyzed) and that has likely earned him a much easier opponent to face in the fall.

D NPP/Other R
XAVIER BECERRA* Appointed Attorney General of the State of California (Democratic) 82% 48% 6%
STEVEN C BAILEY Retired California Judge (Republican) 3% 22% 59%
ERIC EARLY Attorney/Business Owner (Republican) 1% 17% 32%
DAVE JONES California Insurance Commissioner (Democratic) 14% 12% 3%

View detailed attorney general cross-tabs here.

Insurance Commissioner
The race for insurance commissioner should be an exciting November contest between Senator Ricardo Lara and former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

This race also had a large number of voters who didn’t remember who they voted for, giving the findings  a less definitive result, but it is clear who the top two vote-getters are among the early vote.

STEVE POIZNER Businessman/Non-Profit Director (No Party Preference) 34%
RICARDO LARA, State Senator (Democratic) 23%
ASIF MAHMOOD Physician, Internal Medicine (Democratic) 10%
NATHALIE HRIZI Public School Teacher (Peace and Freedom) 3%
Don’t recall 30%

One challenge for Poizner in the General Election will be whether he can maintain his base within the Republican Party while earning enough independent votes to make up for the sagging Republican registration in the state. Based on this primary vote thus far, he has been able to achieve this.*

D NPP/Other R
RICARDO LARA, State Senator (Democratic) 60% 22% 4%
STEVE POIZNER Businessman/Non-Profit Director (No Party Preference) 15% 53% 92%
ASIF MAHMOOD Physician, Internal Medicine (Democratic) 22% 18% 1%
NATHALIE HRIZI Public School Teacher (Peace and Freedom) 3% 8% 3%

* among voters who selected a candidate

View detailed insurance commissioner cross-tabs here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction
The contest for superintendent of public instruction appears to be a close race between the two major candidates, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond and charter school advocate Marshall Tuck.

This contest had the largest number of “don’t recall” among all races we polled. This signals that this race is prone to more volatility as voters don’t appear to be making their choice out of a strong conviction. However, both Thurmond and Tuck appear to be safely heading into the November election, unless some late surge for Lily Ploski appears with Election Day voters or from those voters who don’t recall who they supported.

MARSHALL TUCK Schools Improvement Director 21%
TONY K. THURMOND Educator/State Legislator 19%
LILY (ESPINOZA) PLOSKI Educational Administrator/Instructor 11%
STEVEN IRELAND Parent 6%
Don’t recall 43%

This race has clear ideological breakpoints, with self-identified liberals strongly backing Thurmond, and conservative voters backing Tuck, with the candidates more closely matched among moderate voters.

In the contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction, who did you support? Liberal Moderate Conservative
MARSHALL TUCK Schools Improvement Director 20% 38% 55%
TONY K. THURMOND Educator/State Legislator 51% 31% 13%
LILY (ESPINOZA) PLOSKI Educational Administrator/Instructor 24% 22% 12%
STEVEN IRELAND Parent 5% 10% 21%

View the detailed cross-tabs for the superintendent of public instruction.

U.S. Senate
Finally, the U.S. Senate contest will have a clear winner with incumbent Dianne Feinstein capturing more than 40% of the vote, and state Sen. Kevin De Leon starting the night with a small lead over the top vote-getting Republican candidate, James Bradley.

In the race for U.S. Senate, who did you support?
DIANNE FEINSTEIN* United States Senator (Democratic) 41%
KEVIN DE LEON California Senator (Democratic) 10%
JAMES P BRADLEY Chief Financial Officer (Republican) 6%
ERIN CRUZ Published Author (Republican) 4%
PAUL A TAYLOR Small Business Owner (Republican) 3%
ARUN K. BHUMITRA Teacher/Engineer/Businessman (Republican) 2%
ALISON HARTSON National Political Director (Democratic) 2%
TOM PALZER Retired Urban Planner (Republican) 2%
ROQUE “ROCKY” DE LA FUENTE Businessman/Land Developer (Republican) 2%
DERRICK MICHAEL REID Retired Attorney (Libertarian) 1%
JOHN “JACK” CREW Bus Driver (Republican) 1%
PATRICK LITTLE Civil Rights Advocate (Republican) 1%
PAT HARRIS Civil Rights Attorney (Democratic) 1%
KEVIN MOTTUS Wireless Safety Advocate (Republican) 1%
JERRY JOSEPH LAWS No Ballot Designation (Republican) 1%
ADRIENNE NICOLE EDWARDS Community Advocate (Democratic) 0%
DAVID HILDEBRAND Policy Analyst (Democratic) 0%
JOHN THOMPSON PARKER  (Peace and Freedom) 0%
MARIO NABLIBA Scientist (Republican) 0%
DONNIE O. TURNER Retired USAF Sergeant (Democratic) 0%
DOUGLAS HOWARD PIERCE Missing Children’s Advocate (Democratic) 0%
LEE OLSON Aerospace Systems Engineer (No Party Preference) 0%
LING LING SHI Author (No Party Preference) 0%
DON J. GRUNDMANN Doctor of Chiropractic (No Party Preference) 0%
JASON M. HANANIA Attorney/Engineer (No Party Preference) 0%
DAVID MOORE Special Education Teacher (No Party Preference) 0%
MICHAEL FAHMY GIRGIS Real Estate Broker  (No Party Preference) 0%
HERBERT G. PETERS Retired Aerospace Engineer (Democratic) 0%
COLLEEN SHEA FERNALD  Constitutional Solutions Advocate (No Party Preference) 0%
GERALD PLUMMER Construction Project Manager (Democratic) 0%
RASH BIHARI GHOSH Water Scientist/Professor (No Party Preference) 0%
TIM GILDERSLEEVE Paratransit Operator (No Party Preference) 0%
Don’t recall 21%

The big question in these results is whether Republican voters will be able to consolidate around one of their candidates in order to avoid Democrats-only race in November. The data suggests that this is not happening, at least not to an extent that would be necessary to get a candidate above the percentage earned by De Leon.

Looking just at the Republican candidates, and removing all other candidates and “don’t recall,” we see that independent and Republican voters casting votes within that Republican silo are favoring Bradley, but with just 28% of the vote.

In the race for U.S. Senate, who did you support? NPP/Other R
JAMES P BRADLEY Chief Financial Officer (Republican) 21% 28%
ERIN CRUZ Published Author (Republican) 18% 16%
PAUL A TAYLOR Small Business Owner (Republican) 16% 14%
ARUN K. BHUMITRA Teacher/Engineer/Businessman (Republican) 5% 11%
TOM PALZER Retired Urban Planner (Republican) 8% 9%
ROQUE “ROCKY” DE LA FUENTE Businessman/Land Developer (Republican) 8% 8%
JOHN “JACK” CREW Bus Driver (Republican) 6% 4%
PATRICK LITTLE Civil Rights Advocate (Republican) 6% 4%
KEVIN MOTTUS Wireless Safety Advocate (Republican) 3% 3%
JERRY JOSEPH LAWS No Ballot Designation (Republican) 3% 2%
MARIO NABLIBA Scientist (Republican) 1% 1%

If Bradley’s share can grow to 40% of those choosing among Republican candidates, he could overcome his early disadvantage and make it into the runoff.  However, the early vote skews more Republican, and his best shot is to start out the evening with a small lead in the first results from this mail voting population.

View the detailed US Senate crosstabs here.


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