OAKLAND — With a strong majority of residents backing his handling of Covid-19 amid the Delta variant spread, California Gov. Gavin Newsom enjoys support from a strong majority of likely voters who say they’re voting against his recall, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.
The survey released Wednesday night showed that 58 percent of likely voters say they’ll reject the recall, with just 39 percent voting yes. The margin is slightly larger than in two previous PPIC polls this year with less than two weeks left until the Sept. 14 election, the latest evidence that the Democratic governor has gained breathing room in recent polls, according to a consolidated average by FiveThirtyEight.
There remains a strong partisan split, with nearly all Democratic likely voters (90 percent) and about half of independent likely voters (49 percent) saying they would keep Newsom in office, while the vast majority of Republican likely voters (82 percent) say they would remove him.
A key factor in Newsom’s strength appears to be the overwhelming concerns about Covid-19 as the Delta variant drives increasing infection rates and hospitalizations. Newsom’s approval versus disapproval numbers on his handling of Covid are identical to the recall breakdown — both at 58-39 percent, the poll showed.
The poll showed Californians name Covid-19 as the top issue facing the state today, and most support the governor’s recent policies. Nearly two-thirds of Californians support requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination for large outdoor gatherings or certain indoor spaces and more than three-quarters of state residents — including strong majorities across all regions — say they believe state government under his direction is doing an excellent or good job distributing Covid-19 vaccines.
Newsom’s campaign has leaned heavily on his pandemic policies in recent weeks, telling voters that the recall is a “life and death” situation because his Republican challengers would roll back safety measures. The governor enjoys a significant fundraising advantage with more than $60 million raised, compared to about $7 million generated by top GOP contender Larry Elder.
California’s recall ballot has two questions — first, whether voters want to recall Newsom; and second, whom they want to replace the governor if a majority of voters oust him. If Newsom survives the first question, the second one becomes moot.
Among GOP replacement candidates, Republican talk show host Larry Elder has extended his lead to 26 percent, lapping the rest of the field in the PPIC poll. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is second at 5 percent, while businessperson John Cox and Assemblymember Kevin Kiley are at 3 percent each.
Support for reality show star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner is only 1 percent, while 14 percent of voters named a variety of other candidates. Fully half of the voters say they wouldn’t vote for a replacement or don’t know who they’d vote for, the poll showed.
Newsom and California Democrats have urged their supporters to skip the replacement question entirely. Republicans comprise more than half of the candidates, but nine Democrats are on the ballot as well.
Among other findings of the latest PPIC poll:
— Though the recall drive was first launched by Republicans, the poll shows there are now more crossover votes among Republicans than Democrats — with 17 percent of the GOP likely voters saying they will vote no on the recall, versus just 7 percent of Democrats saying they will vote yes.
— Enthusiasm is still a factor in the election, however, with 54 percent of Republicans saying they are more energized about voting than usual versus just 40 percent of Democrats. But Democrats were more likely to say the outcome is “very important” than Republicans.
— Republicans still more aware of the recall than Democrats, with 52 percent of GOP likely voters following it “very closely” versus just 36 percent of Democrats.
— President Biden has the approval of about 6 in 10 Californians.
— Forty-seven percent say things in California are generally going in the right direction, but there’s a deep partisan divide, the PPIC poll shows. Nearly half of state residents say that California is in an economic recession, the poll showed.
The latest PPIC poll is based on a survey of 1,706 California adult residents from August 20–29, 2021. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percent.