Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is pulling ahead of the pack in California, according to a new poll which shows roughly 24% of likely voters support him in the delegate-rich state.
The new Monmouth University Poll, released Thursday, has Joe Biden in second with 17%, followed by Mike Bloomberg with 10%. With just two weeks until the March 3 primary, 13% of likely voters are still undecided on their pick to challenge President Donald Trump for the White House in November.
Polls are showing a Sanders surge across the U.S. after the senator from Vermont claimed a victory in the New Hampshire primary and had the popular vote in Iowa. The Monmouth poll showed more good news for Sanders: As the field shrinks, findings show his support would increase in a two-person race.
“California is the big prize on Super Tuesday,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute said in a statement, referring to the state’s 494 delegates. “As the poll currently stands, it’s possible that only two or three candidates reach viability in any given congressional district. That would enable Sanders to rack up half the delegates or more while only earning one-quarter of the total vote.”
California — which has become a key battleground state —awards its delegates in a complicated way. Candidates need to achieve at least 15% of votes across the state or in one of its 53 congressional districts to get pledged delegates. That’s why, according to this poll, pulling ahead could mean an even bigger prize.
In two-person matchups against moderate candidates, Sanders continued to come out ahead. The poll showed voters preferred him to Biden 44% to 36%, Bloomberg 48% to 31% and Buttigieg 51% to 26%. His core support stems from young people under 50 and Hispanic voters, the majority of whom chose him in every hypothetical contest pollsters offered.
The results are based on surveys of roughly 570 Californians who participated in past elections or who recently registered to vote, which were conducted by Monmouth University Polling Institute last week.
It echoes findings from a poll released Wednesday by nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, which relied on surveys from more than 1,700 Californians, that had Sanders in the lead with a whopping 32%.
“Sanders may get a decent delegate haul in the currently crowded field,” Murray said. “But if it comes down to a two-person contest in California, Sanders could rack up two-thirds of available delegates and be well on his way to the nomination.”
Gabrielle Canon is a California Reporter for the USA Today Network. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GabrielleCanon.