A new poll out from the Los Angeles Times shows the race for the Golden State between billionaire Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ohio Gov. John Kasich tightening.
Among registered GOP voters, Trump leads Cruz and Kasich with 37 percent to Cruz’s 30 percent and Kasich’s 12 percent.
“Riding a rebellion fueled by opposition to illegal immigration and pessimism about the nation’s future, Donald Trump leads a scrambling duo of competitors less than three months before California’s Republican presidential primary, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times statewide poll has found,” Cathleen Decker of the Times wrote of the publication’s new poll.
The survey, according to cross tabs, asked the presidential preference of 391 registered Republicans from March 16 to March 23—producing the 37 to 30 Trump lead over Cruz with Kasich lagging behind at 12 points and with a margin of error of 5.5 percent.
The seven-point lead is slightly smaller than the low double digit leads Trump has enjoyed in previous Golden State polling done in March, albeit by rival firms to the Los Angeles Times and USC Dornsife. One poll had Trump up 11 points over his competitors, while another had him up 16 points.
There’s another interesting wrinkle in the polling data, in that the Los Angeles Times and USC Dornsife also narrowed down the sample to “likely voters” in the GOP primary and found an even closer race. That sample size, according to RealClearPolitics, which used that slice of the poll in its polling averages for the California primary rather than the wider registered GOP voters sample, was slightly smaller at 332 likely GOP voters.
Decker’s piece briefly addresses this in the copy—and includes a chart further explaining it—but the cross tabs data on the poll only includes the results for the wider registered GOP voters sample, and there is no explanation in either place for the discrepancy in the results or how the pollsters determined someone who was a registered GOP voter was “likely” to turn out on June 7.
“But among the voters most likely to turn out, the poll shows the race between Trump and Cruz is nearly tied, with Trump at 36% versus Cruz at 35%,” Decker wrote. “The difference illustrates how a low turnout in the June 7 primary could hurt Trump and boost Cruz.”
On the cross tabs page of the polling, the results among the “likely” voters section has no data regarding this different sample set, making the omission even more interesting. The cross tabs released do include the full data on the registered voters question, and break down how Trump gets to 37 percent in that sample, and so on.
The last time the Los Angeles Times did a poll of the California GOP presidential primary was back between August 29 and September 8, and that poll was done among registered GOP voters—and no effort was made to clarify any difference between “registered” and “likely” voters. Back then, Trump was still in front—but with only 24 percent as compared to 37 percent now—and Cruz was down at just six percent. Kasich wasn’t even on the map and only achieved two percent in thef California poll last summer.
Regardless of which set of numbers one believes in this new poll, neither is good for Trump—though the latter is bad for the billionaire frontrunner. While he’s still ahead in delegate-rich California, which awards 172 delegates by congressional district on June 7, a tightening race means a protracted battle with Cruz, with Kasich, and with the GOP establishment hellbent on destroying Trump’s ascendency to the White House. Polls tightening this far away–more than two months–from a particular contest is never good for Trump, who has, many times, seen his massive polling leads shrink at least a little bit before contests.