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The bombastic former reality TV star was the top choice of 37 percent of the state’s GOP voters, less than three months before the state’s June 7 primary. Ted Cruz followed with 30 percent and John Kasich pulled in 12 percent of the support.
Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders among Democratic voters, but it’s still wide at 45-37.
One factor that is limiting Trump’s primary support is that the Republican primary is limited to registered Republicans as opposed to the open Democratic primary.
“Trump needs non-traditional voters to win,” said Randall Gutermuth, chief operating officer, American Viewpoint, a Republican consulting firm. “That seven point lead is 36-35 among likely GOP voters. He needs to motivate his voters to get out.”
Region also impacts the Republican vote much more than in the Democratic primary, according to the poll which included 1,500 voters called between March 16-23. While Clinton leads among Democrats in all sections of the state, Trump’s largest base of support is in the Bay Area where he leads Cruz 39-23 percent.
Cruz holds a 1-point advantage in the Central Valley. Trump leads by 9 points in Sacramento and Northern California counties and by 1-point in Los Angeles County.
One takeaway from the poll is that it is unlikely that either Trump or Cruz will take away a large majority of the delegates from the state’s primary.
“There likely won’t be one decisive winner in the delegate count,” said Gutermuth. “Trump voters are with him for the personality and persona more than policies.”
Twenty-one percent of Trump’s own voters oppose his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, and 19 percent say he needs to tone down his rhetoric. Only 36 percent of Republicans favor his proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border. More than a quarter of Republicans say they wouldn’t vote for him as the nominee.
That polarization could hurt in the general election. If Trump wins the nomination, only 42 percent of Republicans said they would “enthusiastically support” him as the nominee. Another 27 percent would “reluctantly vote for him” and another 27 percent would flat out refuse to vote for him.
The Democratic side of the primary looks less volatile, although Sanders has cut in half the 16-point lead Clinton enjoyed in September.
“When we polled last year, Sanders wasn’t taken seriously as a candidate,” said Anna Greenberg, senior vice president of the Democratic polling agency Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “The race closed nationally over the last six months.”
California Democrats are bucking the demographic trends seen in other states, where Sanders has won among white voters but struggled among minority voters. Clinton leads 42-37 among white voters. Sanders’ biggest base of support is among voters younger than 30, which he wins 70-24.
“She is well positioned in the state, and not just for the primary,” said Greenberg. “California is a solidly blue state. It’s hard to see a situation where a Republican wins in November.”
While Trump receives somewhat tepid support among Republicans, 80 percent of Sanders’ voters would support Clinton in the general election. Clinton beats all Republican contenders by double digits and beats Trump by the biggest margin at 56-28.
One of the biggest concerns for Republicans in the general election, should Trump be the nominee, is among Latino voters. Clinton beats Trump 77-12 among Latino voters.
“Trump has a 77 percent ‘very unfavorable’ rating among Latinos,” said Gutermuth. “That is a staggering number. Even Pete Wilson never got into the 70s. The Republicans backing into those numbers is really unfortunate.”