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In the scrap between Porter and Garvey for second place, US Senate polls show flipflopping projections.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is leading the pack in California’s U.S. Senate race, but the battle for the second spot between Republican candidate Steve Garvey and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) is still up in the air, with conflicting poll results adding an extra layer of suspense.

Recent polls have presented different views on the race, showcasing its competitiveness and the inherent limitations of polling as a gauge of voter sentiment.

The Public Policy Institute of California poll suggests a tight contest, with Porter and Garvey nearly neck and neck at 19% and 18% respectively among likely voters. However, the Emerson College Poll paints a different picture, showing Garvey edging ahead of Porter with 22% support compared to Porter’s 16%.

Both polls indicate Schiff leading the charge with about a quarter of likely voters backing him, while Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) trails behind with 10% or less. The rest of the candidates garner 4% or less of the vote.

The top two candidates on March 5 will move on to a November runoff. Schiff’s advantage lies in facing a Republican opponent in a largely Democratic state, where a Republican hasn’t clinched a Senate seat since 1988. A potential face-off between Schiff and Porter could escalate competition and campaign spending.

Despite the polls’ similar sample sizes and close timing, they did not capture voter responses to the final Senate debate.

Making sense of the seemingly contradictory results involves considering factors like the margin of error, how likely voters are calculated, and the narrow gap between second and third place. Polls come with a margin of error, meaning results may fluctuate within a certain range. Moreover, the distinction between likely and unlikely voters can sway outcomes, with pollsters’ predictions varying on voter turnout.

Amid the uncertainties, one thing is evident: the California Senate race remains fiercely contested, with significant ramifications for the state’s political future.

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