By Jim EllisJuly 30, 2018 — The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a new survey of the Golden State electorate, and the pollsters uncovered some new information about the double-Democrat US Senate race that voters will decide in November.
According to the PPIC data (July 8-17; 1,711 adult California residents, 1,420 registered California voters, 1,020 likely California voters — questionnaire provided in English and Spanish), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) would lead state senator and former Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), 46-24 percent, a margin that again shows incumbent weakness. In no poll has Feinstein ever reached the majority support plateau of 50 percent or more. Additionally, in the June 5 jungle primary, she received just 44 percent of the vote, but that compares to Mr. de Leon’s 12 percent, and he finished second. In all, 32 candidates were on the Senate jungle primary ballot.
But this PPIC poll found new key information, which provides even worse news for Sen. Feinstein. Though she still must be rated as the favorite, it is becoming clearer that de Leon is developing at least a narrow victory path. A desertion among Republicans could be problematic for Feinstein, and that appears to be happening.
In a two-person race, the PPIC poll finds just 70 percent making a candidate choice. But that does not mean the remainder is fully undecided. Actually, 20 percent are saying they will deliberately skip this race, almost all of which align themselves with the Republicans or are not affiliated with a major party.
The same phenomenon happened in the 2016 general election US Senate race when then-Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) defeated US Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). Some theorized that Rep. Sanchez could be a strong candidate because she was more likely to attract Republican votes than the much more liberal Harris. Sanchez is a female Hispanic from southern California and had a textbook profile to, at least on paper, win a statewide race there. But, such didn’t prove true because so many Republicans simply skipped the Senate race even though they were in the polling booth or cast a mail ballot.
In the 2016 election, Harris defeated Rep. Sanchez, 62-38 percent. The total turnout was 12,244,170 voters, a number representing 1.93 million voters fewer than those who participated in the presidential race. But, most of the almost 14 percent of voters who dropped off from president to Senate actually returned to choose a candidate in the down ballot contests.
When looking at the statewide propositions at the end of the ballot, the measure listed first, Proposition 51, a proposal to fund K-12 and community college facilities, drew 13,620,436 voters, thus telling us that more than 70 percent of the people who passed on the Senate race returned to vote on this proposition. Even the last initiative on the 2016 ballot, Proposition 67, to prohibit single-use plastic bags, drew more voters than the US Senate race. On #67, more than 13.56 million voters cast their ballot.
Because Sen. Feinstein can be said to be less liberal than Democratic Socialist de Leon, it would be reasonable to assume that she would attract more Republican vote than he. But, according to the PPIC survey, such is not the case.
Rather, the survey shows that de Leon inexplicably captures 25 percent of the Republican vote as compared to Sen. Feinstein’s 22 percent. Within the Republican sample cell, 47 percent said they would not vote in the Senate race, and that was a volunteered response and not a choice the pollsters provided. Comparatively, just three percent of Democrats volunteered this answer. Within the Independent sample, 24 percent said that they would skip the Senate race.
The good news for Sen. Feinstein here is that she should be able to convert many of the Republicans who are naming de Leon as their choice, once they learn more about his political positions. But this PPIC data once again brings us more evidence that despite Sen. Feinstein running against a Democrat significantly to her left, she is apparently not yet home free for re-election in November.