California 2024: Tight Race for U.S. Senate Nomination Between Schiff, Porter, Garvey, and Lee; Plurality Remain Undecided

A new Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics survey of California voters finds a plurality (39%) of voters are undecided in the race to replace the late Senator Dianne Feinstein, while 16% support U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D), 13% support U.S. Representative Katie Porter (D), 10% support former professional baseball player Steve Garvey (R), and 9% support U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D). Other candidates to receive support include James P. Bradley (R) with 3%, former reporter Christina Pascucci (D) with 2%, and Attorney Eric Early (R) at 2%.

Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling, said: “Older voters are more tuned in to the Senate race at this time than their younger counterparts: a plurality of voters under 60 are undecided, while those over 60 are split between candidates. Among voters in their 60s, 24% support Schiff, 19% support Porter, 13% Lee, and 13% support Garvey. Of voters over 70, 30% support Schiff for Senate, 17% support Garvey, while 13% support Lee and 11% support Porter. 

Since the June Emerson California poll, Schiff’s support increased one point, from 15% to 16%, Porter decreased one point, from 14% to 13%, and Lee increased three points, from 6% to 9%. 

President Joe Biden leads the 2024 Democratic Primary in California with 62%, followed by Marianne Williamson at 8% and Dean Phillips with 4%. Eighteen percent are undecided. With California Governor Gavin Newsom added to a hypothetical 2024 primary ballot, Biden received 51%, Newsom 21%, Williamson 7%, and Phillips 2%. Thirteen percent are undecided.

Biden holds a 41% job approval among California voters, while 44% disapprove of the president. Governor Newsom holds a 46% job approval among his constituents, while 40% disapprove of the job he is doing in office. A plurality of voters (44%) are neutral towards Senator Alex Padilla’s job performance, while 30% approve of Padilla and 26% disapprove. Newly appointed Senator Laphonza Butler holds a majority neutral view among voters at 59%, while 20% approve and 22% disapprove of the job she is doing as a senator. 

Former President Donald Trump leads the Republican Primary with a similar majority as Biden: 63% support the former President, 11% support Ron DeSantis, 5% support Nikki Haley, and 4% Chris Christie. Eleven percent are undecided. 

In a potential 2024 general election presidential matchup between Biden and Trump, 50% support Biden while 37% support Trump. Thirteen percent are undecided. With independent and third-party candidates Robert Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein added to the ballot, 43% support Biden, 31% support Trump, 8% Kennedy, 2% Stein, and 1% West. The share of undecided voters increases to 16%. 

“Among those supporting Biden on the initial head-to-head ballot test, when presented with a ballot including independent/third party candidates, 6% move to Kennedy, 3% to Stein, and 1% to West, and 6% become undecided,” Kimball noted. “Among those initially supporting Trump, 7% move to Kennedy, and 10% become undecided.” 

In a hypothetical 2024 ballot test between Governor Newsom and Trump, Newsom leads 53% to 35%, with 13% undecided. Between Vice President Kamala Harris and Trump, Harris leads 47% to 38%, with 15% undecided. 

California voters were asked to grade Governor Newsom’s handling of three issues: the homeless crisis, crime, and the cost of living. 

  • A third of voters (33%) give Newsom an “F” on the homeless crisis, while 14% give the governor a “D.” 25% a “C,” 15% a “B,” and 13% grade his handling as an “A.”
  • On the issue of crime, 32% grade the governor’s handling as “F” work, 13% as a “D,” 22% a C and B respectively, and 12% grade Newsom’s handling as “A” work. 
  • The governor’s grade is the lowest on his handling of the cost of living in California: 41% give the Governor an “F” grade, 16% a “D,” 21% a “C,” 12% a “B’ and 10% an “A.” 

Voters are split regarding the legalization of sports betting in California: 34% support legalizing sports betting, 33% oppose its legalization, and a third (33%) of voters are unsure. 

The economy is the top issue facing California for 35% of voters, followed by housing affordability (21%), crime (10%), immigration (9%), healthcare (6%), “threats to democracy” (5%), and education (4%). “Concern for housing affordability is highest among Hispanic voters at 27%, compared to 23% of Black voters, and 18% of white voters,” Kimball noted. 


The Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics California poll was conducted November 11-14, 2023. The sample consisted of 1,000 registered voters, with a credibility interval, similar to a poll’s margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, party, race, and education based on US Census parameters, and California voter registration and voter turnout data by regions (CA SOS). Data was collected by contacting a list of landlines provided by Aristotle via Interactive Voice Response (IVR), along with an online panel of voters provided by Alchemer and Centiment. 

It is important to remember that subsets based on demographics, such as gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity, carry with them higher credibility intervals, as the sample size is reduced. Survey results should be understood within the poll’s range of scores, and know with a confidence interval of 95% a poll will fall outside the range of scores 1 in 20 times.

This survey was conducted by Emerson College Polling and sponsored by Nexstar Media. All questions asked in this survey with exact wording, along with full results and cross tabulations can be found under “Full Results.”

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