Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, clockwise from upper left (Photos/Courtesy of the candidates)

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Trump and Clinton lead presidential contenders in California

The candidates have a healthy lead over their rivals, USC Dornsife/LA Times poll reveals

September 13, 2015 Michelle Boston

Donald Trump is leading the pack among registered Republican voters in California who are tracking the 2016 presidential nominees, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll.

When asked to choose from a list of Republican candidates for whom they would vote if the presidential election were held today, 24 percent of Republicans said they would support Trump. Ben Carson received 18 percent support, followed by Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, who each received 6 percent. However, Carson held an 11-point lead when matched against Trump in a one-on-one matchup — 43 percent of Republicans supported him for president while 32 percent backed Trump.

“More than half of the Republican primary voters who have chosen a candidate are supporting someone who has never held elected office,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics of USC. “Sheer anger toward Washington is handily defeating ideology in the Republican primary.”

Clinton leads the way

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton leads the way for the presidential candidacy among registered Democrats and Decline to State voters in California, according to the poll. When read a list of potential candidates, 42 percent of those voters support Clinton for president if the election were to be held now, followed by 26 percent who said they would back Bernie Sanders.

Clinton drew support from minority voters by wide margins, including 56 percent of black voters, 54 percent of Latino voters and 41 percent of Asian voters. In comparison, Sanders received support from 20 percent of both black and Asian voters, and 17 percent of Latino voters. Sixteen percent of Democrats and Decline to State voters are undecided about a Democratic candidate.

When Vice President Joe Biden was added to the list of potential candidates, Clinton and Sanders’ support dropped in equal measures among Democratic and Decline to State voters. Clinton and Sanders received support from 39 percent and 23 percent of those voters, respectively, with Biden backed by 11 percent of voters. Sixteen percent of the voters were undecided.

Among registered Decline to State voters, 47 percent reported they are “almost certain” they will vote in the June 2016 Democratic primary election for president. Eighteen percent said they will “probably” vote, and another 18 percent said they “will not” vote.

“Clinton is holding up pretty well,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, part of the bipartisan team with the Republican polling firm American Viewpoint that conducted the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. “Her overall vote share is tracking with national averages and that’s in a state with a pretty significant progressive block compared to the nation as a whole. What you see going on here is that she has very solid coalition of moderate-type Democrats plus non-white voters that someone like Sanders or anybody from her left flank would have to overcome in order to cut into her vote share.”

The Republican field

When Republican voters were asked to choose between a smaller potential field of candidates for president, including Trump, Bush, Carson and Marco Rubio for president, Trump (27 percent) and Carson (25 percent) received the most support, followed by Rubio (13 percent) and then Bush (11). Sixteen percent of voters said they were undecided.

When Trump and Bush were matched against each other, 47 percent of Republican voters selected Trump compared to 32 percent who chose Bush.

When registered Republican voters in California were asked to rate how seriously they supported Republican candidates for president, Carson received the most support (61 percent). Forty-one percent of Republicans said they “seriously” supported his nomination and 20 percent said they “might” support his nomination. Twelve percent said they would “never” support Carson. Meanwhile, 55 percent of voters said they support Trump, with 32 percent reporting they would “seriously” consider supporting him while 23 percent said they “might” consider supporting him. Thirty-five percent said they would “never” support Trump.

Among the other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Republican voters, in order, said they would consider backing Rubio (53 percent), Bush (52 percent), Carly Fiorina (47 percent), Mike Huckabee (44 percent), Ted Cruz (42 percent), Scott Walker (40 percent), Chris Christie (40 percent), Rand Paul (30 percent) and John Kasich (25 percent).

Forty-nine percent of Republicans said they would “never” support a presidential nomination for Paul. Among other candidates, Republican voters also said they would “never” support a nomination for Christie (38 percent), Huckabee (37 percent), Bush (36 percent) and Trump (35 percent).

Overall, 20 percent of registered Republicans said they were undecided on a candidate.

“California is a media state — television, social media, etc. — so it’s not surprising that you see candidates with strong media presences doing very well in California,” said David Kanevsky, research director of American Viewpoint. “That being said, the Republican primary is still wide open. Undecided is in second place, just behind Trump. Where those undecided voters break is going to be very important. And, as with all polls, this is a snapshot in time and expect things to change.”

Gov. Brown’s approval rating dips since hitting peak

Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval rating has dropped 11 points since February 2014 when he received his highest rating since the USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll began querying voters on the governor’s performance in April 2011. However, he still maintains a high rating from the majority of Californians, according to the latest poll: 53 percent of voters approve of his work as governor and 34 percent disapprove.

Meanwhile, 49 percent of Californians believe the state have gotten seriously off track compared with 38 percent who report that things are going in the right direction. Those numbers remain steady since the April poll in which 48 percent of voters reported the state was on the wrong track and 39 percent said it was headed in the right direction. Prior to that, they had made a larger shift from February when 45 percent of Californians felt the state was headed in the right direction and 39 percent thought it was on the wrong track.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, the largest statewide survey of registered voters, was conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 8 and includes a significant oversample of Latino voters as well as one of the most robust cellphone samples in the state. The full sample of 1,500 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.