A new Field Poll shows that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains favored to win the California primary but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is gaining. Clinton leads Sanders 47% to 41% — a lead that has narrowed sharply in recent months.
Sanders is doing particularly well among young voters, while Clinton is winning among women and older voters, according to the Sacramento Bee. The six-point overall margin is slightly closer than the eight points that separated Clinton (45%) and Sanders (37%) in a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released in late March.
That poll also found that Clinton led Sanders in every region of the state, although Sanders was nearly even in the San Francisco Bay Area, northern California, and Los Angeles County. Regional differences are significant because delegates in California are awarded by congressional district — though unlike the Republican primary, the delegates are awarded on a proportional basis, and districts with more registered Democrats have more delegates to assign.
Sanders hopes to use a surge in the Golden State to deny Clinton an overall delegate majority, and to force a contested convention — much as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is doing on the Republican side. California is significantly less favorable to Sanders than it is to Cruz, partly because of Clinton’s typically strong performance among minority voters, but also because the proportional nature of the Democratic primary, and the large number of “superdelegates” who can choose their candidate independently, means that Sanders must work much harder to make a big impact.
The last time a California primary was so important to Democrats was also a tragic occasion: New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy won the primary, and sealed the nomination, on June 5, 1968 before being assassinated moments later.