Dem race tightens in California as Clinton barely leads Sanders 49% to 47%: poll

Clinton, Sanders in tight California race
Clinton, Sanders in tight California race

Hillary Clinton is clinging to a narrow two-point lead over Bernie Sanders in California ahead of the state's June 7 primary, according to results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.

Clinton gets support from 49 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the state, while Sanders gets 47 percent, which is within the survey's statistical margin of error.

And among a wider electorate of all potential Democratic voters in California, Sanders is actually ahead by one point, 48 percent to 47 percent.

Clinton and Sanders running even in California wouldn't affect the overall delegate math in the Democratic race, where Clinton leads Sanders by some 270 pledged delegates and 770 overall delegates. (A tied race would essentially split the state's 475 pledged delegates right down the middle under the Democrats' proportional allocation system.)

But a Sanders victory in California — even by a small margin, and no matter how symbolic — could potentially give him justification to remain in the race heading into July's Democratic convention in July, despite trailing in the delegate math.

"Obviously, if we don't do well in California, it will make our path much, much harder. No question about it," Sanders said on "Meet the Press" last Sunday. "But I think we have a good chance to win in California, maybe win big, and maybe win four or five of the other states that [hold races] on June 7."

In the Democratic horserace, Clinton leads Sanders among likely voters ages 45 and older (63 percent to 33 percent), self-identified Democrats (57 percent to 40 percent), women (54 percent to 41 percent), past Democratic primary voters (53 percent to 42 percent) and whites (51 percent to 46 percent).

See some of Bernie Sanders most ardent supporters:

Clinton also is ahead among those who have already voted, 58 percent to 41 percent.

Meanwhile, Sanders leads among first-time participants (72 percent to 28 percent), independents (68 percent to 26 percent), those younger than 45 (66 percent to 30 percent), men (54 percent to 43 percent) and Latinos (49 percent to 46 percent).

"As throughout the primary season, age is the story in this California tossup," says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "Sanders inspires younger or first-time voters, and Clinton relies upon those who are older or have participated in the past."

Geographically, Clinton is ahead in the Bay Area (56 percent to 42 percent) and Los Angeles County (54 percent to 40 percent), while Sanders has the advantage in the inland/valley areas (54 percent to 44 percent) and the coastal region (58 percent to 36 percent).

Harris, Sanchez lead Senate primary

In the primary to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. - where the top two candidates advance to the November general election, regardless of party - Democrat Kamala Harris gets support from 37 percent of likely primary voters, Democrat Loretta Sanchez gets 19 percent and Republican Tom Del Beccaro gets 8 percent.

No other candidate gets more than 5 percent.

Obama approval at 61 percent, Brown approval at 56 percent

Finally, 61 percent of registered voters in California approve of President Barack Obama's job, while 56 percent give Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown a thumbs up. On Tuesday, Brown endorsed Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.

The NBC/WSJ/Marist poll was conducted May 29-31 of 557 likely Democratic primary voters (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.2 percentage points), 991 potential Democratic primary voters (plus-minus 3.1 percentage points) and 1,833 registered voters (plus-minus 2.3 percentage points).

Originally published