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Trump's base starting to erode in California, new poll shows

David Lauter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

President Donald Trump's support among Republicans and other conservative voters has begun to erode amid the continued coronavirus pandemic and its associated economic havoc, a new poll shows.

The poll from the University of California, Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies shows Trump far behind Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in California. That's no surprise; even at his strongest, Trump was unlikely ever to be competitive in California, a heavily Democratic state.

What is notable, however, is the size of the gap and the degree to which approval of Trump's work as president has declined among groups that until now have supported him.

Biden leads Trump in California by 39 percentage points, 67% to 28%, the poll found. That's 9 points larger than the margin by which Hillary Clinton beat Trump statewide in 2016 -- a record at the time. And the share of Californians who approve of Trump's performance in office, which has held steady in the mid-to-low 30% range for nearly his entire tenure, has now ticked downward to just 29%.

That's consistent with other polls nationally and in battleground states that show a nationwide tide lifting Biden, swelling his margin in states like California, moving him solidly ahead in close-fought states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and making him potentially competitive in states that Trump won more handily last time, such as Texas and Georgia.

"There was a question of whether his support was already so low in the state that it couldn't go lower," said Berkeley political scientist Eric Schickler, co-director of the Institute of Governmental Studies. The poll "shows the answer is no."

 

Aides to both candidates believe the biggest factor in Trump's decline is voters' fear of the coronavirus and belief that the administration has botched its handling of the pandemic. The poll provides further evidence of that.

About two-thirds of the state's voters see the health threat from the coronavirus getting worse. They back Biden 84% to 11%. By contrast, about 1 in 8 say the health threat is getting less serious; they back Trump 87% to 10%. About 1 in 5 voters say the threat from the virus is about the same as it's been; they're closely divided.

The poll also found California Democrats reacting favorably to the possibility of Biden choosing either of two state officeholders on his short list of potential running mates.

Sen. Kamala Harris is better known statewide than Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, but Democratic voters expressed support for Biden picking either of them. For Harris, Democratic voters approved 68% to 20% with 12% expressing no opinion; in Bass' case, support was 46% to 10% with 44% expressing no opinion.

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