The first post-debate California U.S. Senate poll was released during the weekend, with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) maintaining a massive lead, with Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) and former baseball star Steve Garvey (R) tied in a dead-heat for second place.
According to the USC California Elections and Policy Poll (CEPP), which gathered responses from January 21st through January 29th, Schiff is currently winning with 26% of the vote. Both Garvey and Porter are tied for second with 15% each in a neck-to-neck battle. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) slipped down further, coming in a distant 4th place with 7%. All other candidates, such as lawyer Eric Early (R) have only 1% or below. The largest percentage of votes, however, remains undecided, with the poll finding 29% of votes still not being sure who they will vote for come election day.
While most responses did come in after the January 22nd debate in Los Angeles, the poll found that many voters were not likely affected by it. Only 29% of voters watched the debate or saw some coverage of it. 16% knew there was a debate but didn’t do anything about it, and a whopping 52% said that they didn’t even know a debate took place.
The poll also found that, while Schiff is leading in most demographics, he does have some weak spots. Schiff led with 28% among white voters, as opposed the next closest, Garvey with 17%. However, Schiff was a distant third with 14% among Latino voters, with both Porter and Garvey scoring better with 19% and 16% respectively.
A unique question in the CEPP poll asked about secondary candidates, or whom voters would choose if the candidate they voted for doesn’t make it past the primary. If Lee is out, 51% of voters said they would back Schiff; if Porter is out 66% of the vote goes to Schiff. However, if Garvey is out, 49% of voters wouldn’t know who to vote for, with Schiff only getting 12% of that vote.
Porter, Garvey tied
“With just a week or so until early voting begins, 29% of all likely voters are still undecided. 42% of independent voters, 37% of Republican voters, and 19% of Democratic voters do not yet know who they will vote for, thus giving all major candidates potential room to grow,” said CEPP over the weekend. “Asian American voters and Latino voters, the two fastest-growing racial/ethnic groups in the state, could swing the outcome of the March primary. 37% of Asian likely voters and 31% of Latino likely voters are undecided, while only one-quarter of non-Hispanic white likely voters and one-quarter of Black likely voters remain undecided.”
When compared to the last three polls dating back to late December, three trends become apparent: Schiff maintaining his massive leave; Porter and Garvey continuing to fight each other over second place; and Lee falling further and further down with each subsequent poll. Set side-by-side with the December 2023 Politico poll, the January 2024 IGS poll, and the 2024 Emerson poll, Schiff has gone 26%-21%-25% to the 26% CEPP percentage. Garvey and Porter went from a 15%-14% slight Garvey lead, to a 17%-13% Porter lead, to a 18%-13% Garvey lead, before culminating in the 15% tie. Finally, Lee has sunk from 12% to 9% to 8% before bottoming out with 7% in the CEPP poll.
Polling experts told the Globe on Monday that the latest poll shows it will not be Schiff-centric, but rather focused on Porter and Garvey duking it out.
“This time last year, everyone was saying that this was going to be Schiff and Porter comin gin with a decent showing by Lee,” said Stephanie Lewis, a pollster in Southern California, to the Globe on Monday. “Even as recent as October, before Garvey came in, that was the feeling. That no Republican could really give enough of a challenge to even be considered for one of the November slots. Now look where we are.”
“Schiff is in for sure now, and Lee is out for sure. What we now have is Porter and Garvey fighting over that two spot. That debate last month did seem to have a slight effect, as they’re tied now, but not a big one like what a lot of pundits were saying. A lot of people seemed to forgive Garvey for his first-time debate performance. No, instead what we should be concerned about is the number of undecided voters shooting up in this poll. 29%. That can push the needle either way on Porter and Garvey.”
“Also, all the non top-4 candidates were always getting 3%, 5%, just some little chunk. Now they’re all getting 1%, with Lee falling to 7%. Everyone seems to know it is now Schiff, Garvey, and Porter for the serious candidates. And that’s where this is being positioned.”
“Porter has it the roughest. Everyone on her team thought it was be an easy coast against Schiff in November, but now she is fighting for her life in March. She has to spend a lot of money now in ads to counter Garvey and Schiff. Schiff has been going after Porter and not Garvey in ads recently to counter this, with Garvey preferring a laid-back primary campaign focused more on in-person visits. Even if Porter gets second place, she’ll be in a worse spot financially than Schiff, because of all that money she had to blow on the primary. She loses either way. If Garvey gives a visit to her district to make a speech or two, maybe give a speech where she gave hers in the past to combat points she was trying to make, he can box her in and maybe secure a bigger part of Orange County.”
“Meanwhile, for Porter, all those ads emphasizing her use of whiteboards have not been landing. It is not something dignified a Senator would do, and it might have undone some of the goodwill she got from the debate. Her ad team is portraying her as someone patronizing, and voters don’t like it.”
New polls will be out soon with only one month to go before the primary election.