Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

An Odd Poll Leaves Some Clues

In Election Analysis, Senate on January 16, 2015 at 12:34 pm

California Senate
 
The open California Senate race has dominated recent political news coverage, and yesterday a rather strange event unfolded.  It has now come to light that Public Policy Polling surveyed the California electorate at the end of the year (Dec. 29-30, 869 registered California voters) testing what appeared to be a potentially open Senate race, but is just now releasing the data as reported in The Hill newspaper.  
 
Though it is interesting to see how the candidates stack up in the early going, the tested field isn’t particularly representative of the individuals who now appear ready to jump into the race.  Hence, eyebrows are raised as to why PPP would come forth with data now when several key components are obsolete.
 
Already, Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) has announced her Senate candidacy and she is included in the survey, but former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appeared to be moving toward a run, is not.  The latter exclusion is not particularly surprising because, at the time this poll was conducted, Villaraigosa was talking about running for governor in 2018 and not for the Senate in two years.  

Additionally, the current Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti (D), is tested but he formally pulled himself away from further consideration for the statewide office.  In the second questionnaire, Garcetti is then replaced with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), who now says she is unlikely to run because of Harris becoming a candidate.
 
The poll’s leader, GOP Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-4), has given no indication that he is going to become a candidate.  And, while Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46) is sending clear signals that she is ready to enter the campaign, only her sister, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38) who has not suggested she is considering a run, is included.
 
Though the poll contains a large number of individuals who will not be factors in the open Senate race, while excluding key people like Villaraigosa who are, how the candidates fare in the jungle primary format system is of interest.  Below are the results:
 
1st Ballot Test

  • Rep. Tom McClintock (R) ……………….. 28%
  • AG Kamala Harris (D) …………………….. 27%
  • 2014 Gov Nom Neel Kashkari (R) …….. 12%
  • Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) …………………….. 7%
  • Rep. Linda Sanchez (D) …………………….. 6%
  • Investor Tom Steyer (D) ……………………. 6%

 
2nd Ballot Test

  • Rep. Tom McClintock (R) ……………….. 29%
  • AG Kamala Harris (D) …………………….. 22%
  • 2014 Gov Nom Neel Kashkari (R) …….. 12%
  • Rep. Jackie Speier (D) ………………………. 8%
  • Rep. Linda Sanchez (D) …………………….. 8%
  • Investor Tom Steyer (D) ……………………. 4%

 
The second test is interesting in that Harris loses a significant amount of support even though the field changes little.  The fact that Rep. Speier who, like Harris hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, replaces Garcetti could be the reason that some of the attorney general’s support bleeds.
 
Though this poll is virtually meaningless, it does give us at least one salient piece of information.  Once again, we see that the jungle primary format does yield at least one Republican candidate doing well within a crowded field despite the party being so badly outnumbered in the state.  Such has also been the pattern in the actual elections since this new primary system was first implemented in 2012.
 
The Republican finishing pattern is highlighted even more when remembering that Democratic primary turnout has been very low in the past two elections.  
 
The data further tells us that the thought of two Democrats qualifying for the general election from a crowded field may be more difficult to attain than the actual partisan voting numbers would suggest.  On the other hand, does the survey portend to say that under an extreme splitting of the Democratic vote among multiple similar-strength candidates, two Republicans could actually advance to the general election?  This poll does give such an observation slightly more credence.

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