According to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) poll released on Thursday, Congressmembers Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Katie Porter (D-CA) currently have a commanding lead over fellow Congressmembers Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) in the 2024 U.S. Senate race to replace outgoing Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Since early January, the race for the Senate seat that will be left open by Feinstein has heated up, with Porter, Schiff, and Lee all declaring official runs and others like Khanna, Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA), Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis all either having expressing interest in running or being heavily speculated on. While the race has garnered a highly unusual amount of activity and declarations so early on compared to previous Senate races, the rarity of a truly open Senate seat has also made early entrance into the race almost a must for candidates.
Previous polls conducted late last year following the 2022 General election found that Katie Porter was an early favorite. According to a November 2022 David Binder Research poll, Porter was leading Schiff, then the two most speculated candidates, 37%-26%, with 37% also being undecided. But with Senator Feinstein now officially out and the race opening up, things have significantly shifted in the past several months, as the IGS poll showed on Thursday.
The February IGS poll shows that Schiff is currently leading Porter 22%-20%, with Congresswoman Lee coming in a distant third at 6% and Khanna, who has yet to declare, at 4%. However the poll also shows that a whopping 39% of voters, nearly double the amount supporting Schiff, remain undecided.
Among Democrats, Schiff also has a narrow lead over Porter, 25%-23%, with Republicans and other parties having a 47% undecided percentage, followed by 19% wanting to vote for other candidates not listed. According to the Poll, Congresswoman Porter is currently leading among those identifying as strongly liberal, but is losing to Schiff when it comes to those identifying as somewhat liberal, moderate, or conservative. However, it should be noted that those who are undecided lead every political identifier category, with conservative voters are 48% undecided, 23% in support of other candidates besides the four in the poll, and only 11% in favor of Schiff.
In fact, undecided voters come out as the majority in most demographics. In age, those 49 and younger tended to support Porter, but an average of 50% were undecided on who to vote for. Only older votes had more of a solid idea this early on, with Schiff leading Porter and the others by double digits, with undecided voters only amounting to roughly 30% amongst those 50 and above.
Schiff is also currently leading in every region of the state except for Porter’s home county in Orange County and the Inland Empire. This was especially noticeable in the San Francisco Bay area, with Schiff, a favorite of Feinstein, beating out the Oakland-based Lee and Fremont-based Khanna with 23% of the vote there compared to 11% and 6% respectively.
Schiff takes lead in first new 2024 Senate poll released since November
The IGS poll also found that many Californians simply didn’t know the candidates. In a question asking voters on what they thought of the image of each candidate, every single one had high “no opinion” scores. Congressman Khanna and Congresswoman Lee scored 65% and 62% respectfully in the “no opinion” categories, meaning almost two-thirds of Californians either had no idea who they were or did not have enough information to form an opinion on them. No one had above a 50% favorability score, with only 48% seeing Schiff favorably and 45% seeing Porter favorably.
For many polling experts, the IGS poll served as a wake up call for all candidates heading into the race early on, as many Californians tended to either not know or not like those who have either entered or publicly expressed a desire to run for Senate in 2024.
“I was thinking to myself: These Congress people, who certainly are prominent in Washington, and they’ve been prominent on TV. Wait until they see our poll, and they’re going to be shocked at how many people don’t have a clue about who they are or what they stand for,” said IGS Director Mark DiCamillo on Thursday.”
Other pollsters agreed, but also noted many gaps in support.
“Look at where there is a lot of voters not really being supportive,” LA-based pollster Angie Friedman told the Globe on Thursday. “A lot of younger voters are not really supportive of any of the candidates, including Porter, who had previously done a pretty good job of bringing out the younger vote. Millennials and Zoomers don’t want another older candidate who they can’t identify with or don’t trust, and the 49-year-old Porter, 62-year-old Schiff and 76-year-old Lee aren’t helping matters.”
“Conservatives are also largely lost here. They really don’t like anyone in the race. Gun to their head, they are in favor of Schiff because he is more moderate compared to Porter and Lee, but for them that’s a low bar to clear. For conservatives and moderates in California, it’s really going to be a matter of who the lesser of two evils is.”
“Race-wise, with two white candidates and one black candidate officially in, we’re seeing a lot more white and black voters supporting candidates right now. Asians and especially Latinos are split, with 49% of Latinos not knowing who to support right now. More support Porter than Schiff right now, but it is only 17% compared to 10%.”
“It shouldn’t really be a surprise this early on that so many voters are not sure of who to support because the election is well over a year away, with the primary also over a year away at this point. Who knows who else might jump in during that time or what these candidates will do. But we are also seeing some early indications of voting blocs starting to form as well as where they need to focus on. So many voters just don’t know who they really are yet, or what they are for.”
Other Senate polls are likely to be released in the coming months.