BERKELEY, Calif. - Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is pulling away in California, according to the last poll that will be published before Super Tuesday by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.
The results show Sanders growing his lead in California and securing 34 percent of likely Democratic voters. Poll director Mark DiCamillo said Sanders is consolidating his support, especially with young voters.
“Sixty-one percent among youngest voters," says DiCamillo, Sanders dominance with the youth voting block. "You have this huge generational difference in opinion on who should be the next president.”
Voters from those olders generations are much more likely to support billionaire and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is taking a bite out of older voters who may have otherwise backed former Vice President Joe Biden. Back in June, Biden lead the poll but has taken a significant hit since then. He's now in fifth place in the poll, dropping 7 percentage points.
“Michael Bloomberg is getting over 20 percent of the support of older voters, that was a key constituency for Biden," said DiCamillo. But Bloomberg's overall standing in the UC Berkeley poll is still a solid third place behind Sanders.
The only candidate that even comes close to challenging Sanders in California is Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is polling at 17 percent.
Coming up behind are Mike Bloomberg at 12 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 11 percent, and Biden at eight percent.
DiCamillo said these numbers should be cause for concern for the back of the Democratic field as they try to claim some of the state's 415 pledged delegates. A candidate must secure at least 15 percent of the vote in a California congressional district in order to secure any delegates there. There is also a pool of statewide delegates up for grabs to any candidate who earns at least 15 percent of the vote across the entire Golden State.
Based on current polling, that could mean Sanders may run away with the lion's share of the delegate pool.
“He’s going to get delegates everywhere," said DiCamillo. "His challengers probably won’t. So you would expect him to come away with a fairly substantial delegate lead in California.”
The UC Berkeley poll also shows a shift in the question of "electability," or who has the best chance of beating Donald Trump in the November election. Biden led that category for much of race, but he's since been overtaken by Sanders in that key metric as well.
“They were supporting Bernie but thinking maybe he’s not the strongest," said DiCamillo. "Now, people are just pretty much lining up with who they support, that’s who’s going to have the best chance.”
After Super Tuesday, the Democratic field is expected to winnow and the clear majority of voters say they will fall in line. About 79 percent of democratic voters polled said they would support the party's nominee in November, even if it was not their preferred primary candidate.