BY MARK DiCAMILLO AND MERVIN FIELD
The Field Report
Hillary Clinton’s lead over Barack Obama in California now stands at 12 percentage points – 39% to 27%, with 14% preferring other candidates and a relatively large proportion (20%) of likely voters undecided.
Clinton’s lead is largest among women, Latinos, lower income voters, non-college graduates, and seniors. Conversely, Obama is preferred among blacks, college graduates and Democratic primary voters with household incomes of $80,000 or more. Clinton and Obama run about even among men, liberals, and white non-Hispanics.
Both of the leading candidates are viewed by likely Democratic primary voters in a very positive light. Yet, Clinton is perceived by voters as holding a big advantage over Obama as being the candidate with the right experience and who has the best chance of winning in the November general election. Obama, on the other hand, is viewed by more voters as being the candidate who best represents change.
Clinton voters are much more likely to consider jobs/the economy as being the most important issue to them when deciding whom to support for President. By contrast, Obama supporters are more likely to view the war in Iraq and foreign policy as their top concerns.
These are the main findings from the latest Field Poll of 377 likely voters in California’s February 5th Democratic primary conducted January 14-20.
Democratic voter trend
Clinton is now the choice of 39% of likely voters in California’s February 5th Democratic primary, up three points from December. Support for Obama has increased five percentage points to 27%. In third position is John Edwards at 10%, with a combined 4% going to other candidates.
A relatively large proportion (20%) of likely Democratic primary voters remains undecided.
Big demographic sub-group differences in preference
There are large differences in voter preferences across subgroups of the likely Democratic primary electorate. Clinton leads by wide margins among women, Latinos, seniors, non-college graduates, and those with annual households incomes of less than $40,000.
Obama is preferred by blacks, college graduates and those with household incomes exceeding $80,000. He runs nearly even with Clinton among liberals, men, and white non-Hispanics.
Clinton holds a thirteen percentage-point lead among registered Democrats, and a narrower four-point lead among those non-partisans who say they will vote in the Democratic primary.
Clinton is ahead of Obama in each of the four major regions of the state, although her lead in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area is just seven points.
Edwards supporters favor Obama
If Edwards, who is running a distant third with 10% of voter preferences, were to drop out of the race, more than twice as many of his supporters say they would prefer Obama (29%) than Clinton (11%). Another 12% would favor other candidates, while nearly half (48%) are undecided.
Both leading candidates are highly regarded by Democratic primary voters
Democrats have a high regard for both Clinton and Obama. About three in four likely Democratic primary voters hold a favorable impression of Clinton (77%) and Obama (74%).
Very few have an unfavorable impression of either Clinton (15%) or Obama (13%). There has been a small yet significant improvement in the regard Democratic voters have of Clinton since October.
In this survey voters deemed likely to participate in the Democratic primary were asked to make an appraisal between Clinton and Obama on six different personal attributes.
Of the six, Clinton holds the biggest advantage over Obama on having “the right experience” (58% to 12%). Clinton also edges Obama on having the best chance of winning the November general election (45% to 20%). She also holds somewhat smaller advantages as the candidate “best representing what the Democratic party stands for (37% to 24%), “will be able to unite the U.S.” (35% to 28%), and “cares about people like you” (32% to 20%), although fairly large proportions say these descriptions apply to both candidates.
Most important issues to Democratic primary voters
Three issues are rated about equally as being most important to this state’s Democratic primary electorate: health care (43%), jobs and the economy (42%), and the war in Iraq (42%). Rated next in importance is foreign policy (30%), followed by illegal immigration at 26%. Somewhat smaller proportions rate taxes (19%) or the terrorist threat (17%) as being among the most important issues when deciding whom to support for President.
Clinton voters are much more likely than other voters to consider jobs and the economy as being the issue most important to them.
By contrast, more Obama supporters than voters favoring other candidates view the war in Iraq and foreign policy as being among their most important issues.
See Related: FIELD REPORT
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