California Counts

A collaboration between Capital Public Radio, KQED, KPCC and KPBS to cover the 2016 elections in California.

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Pollsters: Election Results Show California Unlike Rest Of America

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Pollsters Mark Baldassare with the Public Policy Institute of California and Mark DiCamillo with Field Research Corporation address the Sacramento Press Club on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

It’s often said that “as California goes, so goes the nation.” But that’s rarely been less true than in last week’s election.

Two of California’s most highly respected pollsters say the results underscore just how different the Golden State is.

Indeed, take a look at exit poll data and it’s easy to see why California’s top elected officials are vowing to resist President-elect Donald Trump.

“We must be drinking different water and breathing different air out here,“ says Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. “Just whole swaths of the voting public had very different characteristics here in California than was true nationally.”

Among the findings DiCamillo cites:

  • 70 percent of the national electorate was white, compared to just 50 percent in California
  • 60 percent of California voters embraced the view that government should do more, while nationally it was the opposite
  • California women voted for Hillary Clinton by a 33-point margin, compared to a 12-point national gender gap.

That diversity is reflected in voters’ political party identity and their views of the role of government.

“When you see the comments of the political leaders – mostly Democrats in California – they’re pretty much reflecting the public will,“ DiCamillo says. “They’re not going way out on a limb by saying we’re going to try to continue our own policies.”

“What the voters have said, really, in this election, is that they want a very specific course for their state,” says Mark Baldassare with the Public Policy Institute of California – a course that’s sharply at odds with Trump and the Republican Congress.

Yet Californians’ support for some liberal ballot measures this election marked a pretty big reversal from previous years.

“It’s not usual that you would have voters support initiatives that voters had conflicting views on in the past,“ says Baldassare. “But we saw in this election really four great examples of it.”

Californians legalized recreational marijuana, approved a tobacco tax increase, restored bilingual education in public schools, and loosened some of the state’s tough criminal justice sentencing rules.