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Poll: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders neck and neck in California

Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Santa Maria on May 28.
Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Santa Maria on May 28. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Bernie Sanders, campaigning furiously in California despite Hillary Clinton’s near-lock on the Democratic nomination, has drawn effectively even in the state one week ahead of the primary election, according to a new poll.

The Field Poll, released Wednesday, is the third poll in a week to put Clinton ahead of Sanders by 2 percentage points, a finding within Field’s margin of error.

Surging on the support of young people and independent voters, Sanders has steadily cut into Clinton’s advantage, climbing from 11 percentage points back in January. He has drawn thousands of supporters to a nonstop stream of rallies and events throughout the state in recent weeks, including in Davis on Wednesday.

In California, Clinton leads Sanders 45 percent to 43 percent among likely voters in the Democratic primary, according to the Field Poll. Clinton is favored by pluralities of Democrats, older voters and women, while Sanders is pummeling Clinton among independents and voters under 40.

Independent voters likely to vote in the Democratic primary now back Sanders by a 2-to-1 ratio. In April, his advantage among that group was smaller, at 10 percentage points.

It’s a very close race ... And more than most elections, this one will be decided by turnout.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll

“It’s a very close race,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo. “And more than most elections, this one will be decided by turnout.”

Of the 23 percent of Field respondents who had already voted early or by mail, Clinton leads Sanders by 9 percentage points, according to the poll. Of the remaining 77 percent of likely voters, Sanders holds a 1 percentage point edge.

“On Tuesday, we are going to win the primary,” Sanders told a crowd of thousands Wednesday at UC Davis. “And we have the establishment very nervous. That’s a good thing.”

 

The tightening race in California comes as the Democratic nominating contest nationally draws to a close, with Clinton leading in both delegates and the popular vote. Barring an upheaval, and even if she does not win California, she will become the party’s nominee.

Still, a loss to Sanders in the nation’s most populous state would leave a mark on Clinton’s candidacy heading into the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

According to the poll, Clinton’s image rating has continued to decline in California, with 64 percent of likely Democratic voters viewing her favorably and 30 percent negatively. Sanders enjoys a far more positive image rating, at 76 percent positive.

“Hillary has been taking a hit,” DiCamillo said. “Her image rating is on the decline among Democratic primary voters, and I think she’s kind of stagnating at a certain level of support.”

Clinton, a former U.S. senator and secretary of state, is scheduled to return to California on Thursday and campaign throughout the weekend. Her campaign said she will deliver a “major address” in San Diego on Thursday on national security.

Clinton has increasingly turned her attention to a general election matchup against Donald Trump, and her campaign said she will criticize him on national security issues in her Thursday speech.

I think she’s a reliable moderate, middle of the road. I think she can govern.

Kathryn Knightsby, poll respondent

Sanders, while insisting he still can win the nomination, is also seeking to advance a more liberal message at the nominating convention.

Meanwhile, Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, rallied supporters in Sacramento on Wednesday.

In sweltering heat at Sacramento International Jet Center, Trump said he would retaliate against Barack Obama if the president campaigns against him, pledging to “hit him, just like I hit Bill Clinton.”

He said of Bill and Hillary Clinton, “These are crooked people.”

Speaking to roaring supporters after descending from his airplane in front of them, Trump repeated his assertion that he will compete in the general election in California, a state that no Republican presidential candidate has won since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Sixty percent of the state’s likely Republican voters say they will vote for Trump, while 31 percent say they will vote for some other Republican, according to the poll. Nine percent of likely Republican voters are undecided.

In a matchup between Clinton and Trump, Clinton leads by 19 percentage points, according to the poll. Sanders is beating Trump by 29 percentage points.

Kathryn Knightsby, a real estate broker and poll respondent from Salida, said she will vote for Clinton because of her moderate politics and history of withstanding Republican attacks.

“I think she’s a reliable moderate, middle of the road,” said Knightsby, 52. “I think she can govern.”

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