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A statewide CALSPEAKS survey of Californians likely to vote in the state’s June 7 presidential primary shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by 1 to 5 percentage points, with both Democrats besting Republican Donald Trump by more than 20 percent in general election trial heats.

However, 20 percent of respondents say they’re still undecided between Clinton and Sanders.

“The takeaway,” says David Barker, director of Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) and its CALSPEAKS public-opinion project,is that Californians appear very torn between Clinton and Sanders, with each candidate enjoying roughly equal support and many voters still making up their minds, right up to the last minute. So on Tuesday, a lot rides on the percentage of independents who comprise the electorate: 25 percent and Clinton probably wins; 35 percent and it's a toss-up; 45 percent and Sanders probably wins.

“Win, lose or draw, Clinton will almost certainly clinch the nomination Tuesday. For Sanders to have a remote chance, he would have to beat her by more than 30 points, and that seems extremely unlikely.”

Barker adds: “One thing seems clear: This is not Trump country. Unless things change radically, Clinton is in a good position to trounce him in the November presidential election.”

California Speaks (CALSPEAKS), the new statewide public-opinion polling project of ISR, is the only probability-based survey panel in the state that focuses on the attitudes and perceptions of California’s residents.

The presidential primary survey was conducted May 23-27 with 760 respondents. The sample size of Democrats and independents who were prompted by the Clinton vs. Sanders question was 551 respondents. The margin of error is approximately plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample and 5 percentage points for the Clinton vs. Sanders subset.

 “Perhaps the most interesting thing we found,” says Barker, “was when we showed respondents a PolitiFact graphic of the relative truthfulness ratings for Clinton, Sanders, (Ted) Cruz, and Trump. The graphic reveals Clinton having the best ratings, but the respondents did not adjust their opinions of Clinton’s honesty or trustworthiness, which tend to be low. Instead, almost four times as many respondents indicated that results like those from fact-checking organizations were ‘unreliable.’ ”

Other findings of the CALSPEAKS presidential primary poll:

  • A plurality of voters support the idea that partisans from the opposing party should be allowed to vote in a party’s primary.
  • A majority oppose the idea of the Democrats’ superdelegate system.
  • A large majority support the current system on the Democratic side of awarding delegates proportionally, according to one’s share of the vote.
  • Most Californians prefer that politicians from both parties compromise more with the other side, except when it comes to the abortion issue.
  • Support for anti-government protests is largely dependent on who is doing the protesting. Democrats support Black Lives Matter protesters, but find Tea Party-inspired protests inappropriate, and vice versa. Republicans dislike Black Lives Matter approximately twice as much as Democrats dislike the Tea Party.

“A lot has been made this electoral cycle about ‘authoritarianism,’ or anti-democratic sentiment, and support for Trump,” Barker says. “Our results show that even among a group of people who disproportionately identify as liberal Democrats, a majority reveals authoritarian tendencies according to standard measures, and a larger majority reports feeling ‘threatened’ by developments in the United States and around the world, which is what ‘triggers’ authoritarianism.”

CALSPEAKS has contracted with California Counts, a consortium of four National Public Radio stations, including Sacramento’s Capital Public Radio, to provide election polling for the 2016 presidential election.

Since its August 2015 launch, CALSPEAKS has surveyed Californians about their attitudes regarding higher education, water use, and politics. Upcoming surveys will query California residents on such matters as immigration policies, marijuana legalization, the drought, prison realignment, and e-cigarette use.

This fall, ISR plans to launch a Sacramento-centric version of CALSPEAKS to further amplify the voices of local residents on local issues.

For more information about the Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State and its survey platforms: www.csus.edu/isr/CALSPEAKS. And for information on Sacramento State’s Project for an Informed Electorate (PIE) and its director, Kim Nalder: www.csus.edu/ssis/pie/. – Dixie Reid