Sanders Rises While Biden and Warren Slip in California

(CN) – Presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren’s support among California Democrats dropped while support for Senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg rose, according to polling data released Thursday.

From left, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. raise their hands to answer a question during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston this past September. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

An LA Times/UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll shows Sanders currently holds a slim lead in the Democratic primary contest in California with 24% support from likely voters. This represents a seven-point boost for Sanders compared to a previous Public Policy Institute of California poll in November that had the candidate at 17%.

Right behind Sanders is Warren with 22%, placing the two senators in a statistical tie. While the only other candidate to command over 20% support in the poll, Warren’s support among California Democrats has suffered a gradual decline, dropping seven points since September.

Biden takes third place in the poll with 14% support. Like Warren, however, the former vice president’s support in the Golden State is slipping, as he has fallen six-points in the state since September.

The only other candidate in the poll to crack double digits is Buttigieg at 12%, statically tied with Biden. Buttigieg’s support has doubled in the state compared to previous polling.

Rounding out the top five in the poll is California Senator Kamala Harris at 7%, though the poll was taken before Harris announced this week she is dropping out of the race.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, says that these figures suggest the Democratic race in the Golden State is far from settled.

“The race is really unusually fluid,” DiCamillo said with the release of the poll. “Voters are struggling and not sticking with their candidates. They are moving around from candidate to candidate.”

A noteworthy absentee from the top five in this poll is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a recent addition to the Democratic field. Bloomberg has launched an advertising campaign targeting states with later primaries – like California – though data suggest he faces an uphill battle. The poll shows that only 15% of California voters have a positive view of Bloomberg.

When asked which candidate would be their most likely second choice, Warren leads the group with roughly 20% of voters saying the Massachusetts senator would be their top second choice. Warren’s approval ratings also remain largely high, with 67% of California voters saying they have a favorable view of her and 58% of voters saying they considered supporting her.

Nearly half (49%) of voters said they at least considered support Sanders, while 41% and 39% said they considered supporting Buttigieg and Biden, respectively.

Breaking down what voters think are the candidates greatest’s strengths, Biden leads the field among voters who were asked to identify a candidate who is most likely to defeat President Trump in the general election, at 29%.

Biden’s numbers drop among voters who were looking for the Democratic candidate with the strongest mind. Only 6% of voters say Biden has the best mental abilities, while nearly a quarter (24%) of voters say that title belongs to Warren.

Sanders, for his part, holds leads in several other key issues. Over a quarter of voters say that the Vermont senator best understands the problems of everyday people, shares most voters’ values, and would bring the most effective change to Washington if elected.

California voters have concerns about the leading candidates’ ages, however. Around a third of voters say they are worried the ages of Biden and Sanders – both in their late 70s – may hinder their ability to effectively serve as president.

Only 7% of voters say the same of Warren, who is 70.

The LA Times/UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll surveyed 1,694 likely California primary voters and has a 4% margin of error.

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