Porter and Schiff are neck-and-neck in the Senate race in California, ahead of a runoff

Los Angeles, CA - October 8: Representative Katie Porter and Representative Adam Schiff, left and right, participate in an onstage debate with other Democrats running to succeed Senator Feinstein at the Westing Bonaventure Hotel on Sunday, October 8 .  8, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA.  (Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Porter and Schiff are neck-and-neck in the Senate race in California, ahead of a runoff

California Politics, 2024 Elections

Benjamin Oresces

November 3, 2023

Representatives Adam


Schiff and Katie Porter are almost in a dead heat


race for the U.S. Senate race in California, well

positioned to advance to a runoff, a new poll shows.

The House’s two well-funded Democrats have been running since the beginning of the year. Other candidates, including

fellow Democrat

Rep. Barbara Lee and Republican former baseball star Steve Garvey have so far shown no signs of advancing the race



Porter, of Irvine, has 17% support among voters likely to cast ballots in the March primary, and Schiff, of Burbank, is at 16%, according to the latest poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by The Times. Garvey comes in at 10% and Lee, from Oakland, has 9% of the vote, the poll showed.

The polls represent a slight improvement in support for Lee and Garvey since the last Berkeley IGS poll in August, while support for Schiff has declined slightly. But the shifts are all close to the poll’s margin of error, and none have changed the overall shape of the race. About 3 in 10 likely voters remain undecided.

Under California’s system, the top two winners in March, regardless of party, advance to the runoff of the general election in November. The poll shows that there will be two Democrats in the runoff, which was the case in the last election for this Senate seat in 2018, when


Senator Dianne Feinstein defeated fellow Democrat Kevin de Len.

The seat is currently held by Senator Laphonza Butler, who was appointed by Governor. Gavin Newsom after Feinstein’s death on September 29, but will not run for a full term.

“I think Lee and Garvey are the ones to watch in the second tier. Will either of them be able to make a slightly higher breakthrough to become the third possible candidate?” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley survey and a longtime pollster in California.

“Lee’s problem is that she’s just not very well known outside the Bay Area,” he said, noting that she faces the challenge of “broadening her appeal” to a statewide constituency.

The coalitions backing each candidate have remained roughly consistent in recent months, with Porter drawing more support from younger voters and from those who identify as strongly liberal. Voters under 50 favor her over Schiff by more than a dozen percentage points, and she leads by 15 percentage points among people who identify as strongly liberal.

Schiff leads with voters 65 and older and those who identify as somewhat liberal. The two are essentially linked among voters who identify as Democrats.

Lee, one of three black members of Congress from California, now leads among black voters statewide, which was not the case earlier in the campaign.

Porter, Schiff and Lee have crisscrossed the state, attending forums hosted by unions and advocacy groups, holding fundraisers and holding small town hall meetings with voters.

But the nearly even split between the two parties in the House of Representatives has often kept all three in Washington so as not to miss votes. The result is that most campaigns take place when the House is in recess.

Geographically, Porter leads in Orange County, with 21% support among likely voters polled, while Garvey has 15% support and Schiff has 14%. Porter also leads Schiff by 6 points in voter-rich Los Angeles County (22% to 18%), and the two are essentially tied in Central Valley and San Diego County.

Lee is doing better among voters in the Bay Area than elsewhere. The three Democrats are close together in Schiff with 19% support, Lee with 18% and Porter with 16%.

Garvey’s poor performance in the Bay Area is likely due to the region’s very liberal identity, but his 4% support there could also indicate that his main appeal as a candidate and his years playing for the Dodgers are not him helping in Northern California, DiCamillo. said.

One possible hope for Garvey statewide, however, is that undecided voters in the race tend to be more conservative and more likely to be Republicans than the overall electorate, suggesting he may have some room to expand his support.

To advance to the runoff, however, Garvey would need to consolidate most of the state’s Republican minority vote. That’s difficult with two other Republicans in the race: lawyer Eric Early and businessman James Bradley.

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Garvey, who twice voted for former President Trump, has told his supporters that he will focus his campaign on quality-of-life issues such as education, the cost of living, housing affordability, crime and homelessness. He leads the poll among voters who call themselves conservative.

The poll shows that the battle for the Senate is not yet at the top of the agenda for many voters. For example, nearly half of likely voters have no opinion about Porter. Likewise, about half of likely voters don’t know enough about Lee to give an opinion, and 58% said they don’t know enough about Garvey.

Likely due to his prominent role in the impeachment proceedings against Trump, Schiff is better known, with only 31% of voters saying they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion.

But Schiff is also more polarizing: 40% of likely voters said they had a favorable view of him, and 29% said they had an unfavorable view. In Porter’s case, 38% had a favorable view and 17% had an unfavorable view.

Democratic consultant Bill Carrick said that as the first day approaches, Schiff’s monumental fundraising advantage will likely start to have an impact on the polls.

Schiff has about $32 million in cash on hand, according to his latest financial report. That will translate into far more television and radio advertising than its rivals can afford. Porter reported the second-most money available, with $12 million at the latest fundraising deadline. The other candidates lagged far behind in the money race.

California is notoriously difficult to campaign due to the size of its media markets and the enormous costs of buying airtime. Schiff launched a digital ad this week, but none of the candidates have yet advertised on television.

The Berkeley-Times poll asked likely voters which outlets they rely on for news and how that might relate to their candidate preferences. Local television and radio news remain by far the most common way voters learn about the candidates; 85% indicate that they use it. Among likely voters, 58% said they turn to CNN and MSNBC to stay informed about the race. The majority of voters who rely on these two channels identify as Democrats.

The next three most popular sources were Google and other Internet search engines, 43%; local or regional newspapers, online or in print, 38%; and government voter guides, 37%. The three sources were also favored more by Democrats than Republicans in the poll.

About a fifth of likely voters said they received information about the race from Fox News. The vast majority of them identified as Republicans.

Still, the primacy of television and radio led Carrick to believe that Schiff might have an advantage.

“I think the rubber will hit the road when he starts buying broadcast and cable,” Carrick said, adding:

“That could be an advantage he has a long time ago.”

The Berkeley IGS poll surveyed 4,506 registered voters in California who were likely to participate in the March primary. The survey was conducted online in English and Spanish on October 1. 24-30. The results are weighted to match census and voter registration benchmarks, so margin of error estimates may be inaccurate; however, the results for the likely voter sample have an estimated margin of error of 2.5 percentage points in either direction.


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