Poll: California could be Trump’s trump card in nomination battle; he is way ahead

FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, file photo, President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally in support of Senate candidates Sens. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue in Dalton, Georgia. Trump will head to Texas on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, to trumpet one of the pillars of his presidency: his campaign against illegal immigration. It’s part of an effort by aides to salvage a Trump legacy that will forever be tarnished by the siege he initiated on the U.S. Capitol the week before. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, file)
(Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

Poll: California could be Trump’s trump card in nomination battle; he is way ahead

Elections 2024, California politics

Laura J. Nelson

January 15, 2024

Regardless of the results of Monday night’s Iowa caucus, new polls indicate that Republicans vying for the presidential nomination on Super Tuesday will face the equivalent of a brick wall, in the form of former





In California, one of the fifteen states held Republican primaries on March 5.


of voters likely to participate in the Republican primaries said they would vote for Trump, according to the latest poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. That’s more than an already dominant one


in October.

The poll, conducted Jan. 4-8, shows that California conservatives could provide a significant boost to Trump’s efforts to clinch his party’s nomination early in the primary season, despite his relatively small presence in the early primaries.

This year’s primaries are the first under new winner-take-all rules established last summer by the Republican Party of California, which all


Delegates the most of any state to a candidate who receives more than 50% of the vote.

The California delegation is responsible for almost


of the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination.

“It’s a different story now, and it certainly benefits Trump if he can keep these numbers going,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS survey. “If Trump carries California, he will be well on his way to securing the nomination.”

Previously, Republican presidential candidates received three delegates for each congressional district they won in California, meaning several candidates could make gains in the Golden State.

Recent polls show Trump holding similarly large leads in several other Super Tuesday states. All told, just over a third of the delegates to the Republican Convention that day will be arranged. Trump’s strategists hope to win enough of them to sideline the nomination at that point, which would be before any of the four criminal trials he faces begin.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is now Trump’s closest rival in California, but she is a distant second, with support from


% of likely voters, the new poll showed.

Haley supporters are hoping that a strong performance in Iowa, coupled with a possible win in New Hampshire later this month, could give her enough momentum to truly challenge Trump for the nomination.

The poll shows why that will be so difficult.

She performs


best among the relatively small segments of California Republicans who describe themselves as politically moderate or liberal and those with post-graduate degrees. Among the self-described ‘strongly conservative’ voters, who play an outlier


role in the Republican primaries, 5% support her.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who led Trump in California last February, “is dropping like a stone,” DiCamillo said. DeSantis is the choice now


% of the state’s likely Republican voters.

The general election is a different story. The outcome of the race is clouded by Trump’s legal battles, President Biden’s declining popularity among younger voters and Latinos, and the presence of third parties.

and independent

candidates, including progressive activists


West and Robert F. Kennedy



The poll shows that support for Biden remains positive in California, despite the state’s deep blue politics.


of California voters have a positive view of Biden


say their opinion is unfavorable. His job approval among all registered voters (44% approve and 52% disapprove) has not changed significantly since October, when for the first time a majority of Californians disapproved of Biden’s job performance.

“It’s underwater, which is not a great place to be in a blue state,” DiCamillo said.

Biden’s support has continued to decline among some voter groups, including Latinos.

Democrats have a 2-1 voter advantage over Republicans among California Latinos, DiCamillo said. But the poll showed this was correct


of likely Latino voters in California have a positive view of Biden. That number falls to


among Latinos for whom Spanish is their dominant language, a group that has tended to be more Democratic than other Latinos in past elections.

Biden is also struggling to maintain the support of young voters. Just now

4 out of 10

likely voters

under 30

have a positive view of Biden, compared to

6 out of 10

likely voters

over 75


“Those are big changes, and they tend to be a very important Democratic constituency,” DiCamillo said.

Asked about a hypothetical field of five candidates, including Western Kennedy and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, the poll showed Biden would have a 16-point lead over Trump in California.


significantly less than his 30-point margin of victory in 2020. The poll showed


support for Kennedy,


for the West, and


for stone, while


of likely voters remained undecided.

In a head-to-head matchup without third-party candidates, Biden’s lead over Trump would increase to 19 points.




undecided, according to the poll. If Vice President Kamala Harris were the Democratic nominee, she would defeat Trump in the state by a nearly identical margin.



Biden would also beat Haley in California,


but with


of voters undecided

the poll showed


Younger voters and Latinos’ criticism of Biden is not unique to California. In some swing states, where the battle is much closer, polls show Biden trailing Trump in hypothetical 2024 matchups.

But the mixed reception for Biden’s job performance is better than how California voters view Trump:




negative, inclusive


whose opinion of the former president is “strongly unfavorable.”

Kennedy, who is running as an independent, has achieved double-digit support in some polls of swing states. That’s not the case in California, where he votes


among likely voters.

Kennedy worked for years as an environmental lawyer in New York, but now lives part-time in Los Angeles with his actor wife

the actress

Cheryl Hines. He has played up his ties to California since launching his campaign, shooting videos on the Venice Boardwalk and in the Santa Monica Mountains and hosting fundraisers with Westside yoga teachers.

That appeal does not appear to have worked in California, where his approval rating is high


the poll showed.

Almost two-thirds

of California Democrats say they dislike Kennedy, who spent decades as a Democrat and ran in presidential primaries as a Democrat until launching his independent bid in October.

“Republicans are much more positive in their views of Kennedy” than Democrats or voters with no party preference, DiCamillo said. “It’s very interesting.”

This was evident from the poll


of California Republicans have a very positive or somewhat favorable view of Kennedy, who founded the anti-vaccine organization Childrens Health Defense.

Among conservative voters, Kennedy is the second most popular political figure after Trump, suggesting he is a


option for the dissatisfied



West, who launched an independent bid for president in October, is far less known among California voters than Kennedy. The poll found that 15% of likely California voters had a favorable opinion of the progressive activist, while 27% say they view him unfavorably, and 58% have no opinion.

The Berkeley IGS survey was conducted online from January 4 to 8 among a random sample of


registered voters, including a weighted subsample of


likely primary voters and 1,351 likely Republican primary voters.

The results are weighted to match census and voter registration benchmarks, so margin of error estimates may be inaccurate; However, the results have an estimated margin of error of 2 percentage points in either direction for the fully likely voter sample and 3.5 percentage points for the Republican primary sample.


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