The latest Berkeley IGS Poll finds that the proportion of voters in the overall electorate who favor recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom has not changed much over the past year. At present 36% of the state’s registered voters say that if voting in the recall election they would vote Yes to recall the governor, while 51% would vote No to retain him.
However, the election will be decided not by the overall electorate, but by only those who choose to take part in the recall. And, when the voting preferences of those considered most likely to participate are examined, the outcome becomes much closer, with 47% favoring Newsom’s recall and 50% favoring his retention.
For a complete description of the poll’s methodology, including the questions, graphs and margins of error, click here.
The main factor contributing to these very different distributions is that, if current levels of interest and voting intentions persist, turnout is likely to be far higher among Republicans than Democrats and No Party Preference voters. And, since nearly all Republicans favor Newsom’s ouster, a larger proportion of likely voters are voting Yes.
The higher GOP turnout is being driven by several factors.
First, Republicans express far greater interest in voting in the recall election than Democrats or No Party Preference voters.
Second, there is a widespread expectation among Democrats and No Party Preference voters that Newsom will defeat the recall which may be fostering greater complacency among recall opponents than among supporters.
Third, voters in most jurisdictions will see only two questions on the recall ballot, the Yes/No vote on the governor’s recall and who should replace Newsom if he were to be recalled.
The very limited nature of the two-question ballot contrasts with other statewide elections in which voters are drawn to the polls by numerous state and local candidate and proposition races. And, when coupled with the fact that many more Democrats than Republicans report not intending to cast a vote on the question of the governor’s replacement due to an absence of well-known Democratic candidates, this also appears to be giving GOP voters a greater incentive to participate.
Observed IGS co-director Eric Schickler, “These results make plain that the big question surrounding the recall will be whether the Newsom campaign and Democratic activists are able to get Democratic voters more engaged and interested in voting in September.”
The poll also finds that Republican broadcaster Larry Elder currently leads in the race to replace Newsom should the governor be recalled, although a large 40% of likely voters remain undecided. When presented with a long list of the candidates running in the replacement election, Elder is the choice of 18%, followed by fellow Republicans John Cox (10%), Kevin Faulconer (10%), and Kevin Kiley (5%). Democrat Kevin Paffrath and Republican Caitlyn Jenner each receive 3% of the vote in this setting.
Trend of voting preferences in the recall election
The current survey is the third time the Berkeley IGS Poll has measured voter sentiment in the recall election of Gov. Newsom. In each survey, identical proportions of the state’s registered voters (36%) report that if they were voting in the election, they would vote Yes to recall the governor. The latest survey finds that 51% of the overall electorate would vote No to keep Newsom in office, up slightly from previous polls.
However, the Sept. 14 election will be decided not by the overall electorate, but only by those who choose to participate. In its latest survey the poll made a concerted effort to identify which voters among its sample of nearly 6,000 registered voters were most likely to participate in the recall election. This was done by examining voters’ self-reported intentions to vote, their level of interest in voting in this election, and their history of voting in past statewide elections.
When the voting preferences of only those considered most likely to participate are examined, the outcome of the recall election becomes closer, with 47% of these voters reporting that they intend to vote Yes to recall the Governor, and only a slightly larger (50%) intending to vote No. Just 3% are undecided.
While Republicans account for only about one-quarter of all voters in the overall electorate, the poll finds that among those most likely to participate in the recall election their share increases to a third (33%). And, while 46% of voters in the state’s overall electorate are registered Democrats and 24% are registered No Party Preference, among those most likely to vote, the share of Democrats declines to 42% and that of No Party Preference voters to 18%.
The narrowing of the Democrats’ large numeric advantage over Republican voters has a major impact on the recall election since voting preferences are extremely partisan. According to the poll, greater than nine in ten of the Democrats most likely to vote (91%) intend to vote No to retain Newsom, while an even larger proportion of Republicans (95%) are lining up on the Yes side to recall the governor. The same huge chasm in voting preferences is observed between the state’s liberals and conservatives, who the poll finds account for roughly similar proportions of likely voters.
Voters most likely to participate in the recall election also include a larger share of white voters and fewer voters of color than are found in the overall electorate. Whereas whites account for an estimated 53% of all registered voters and voters of color 47%, the poll indicates that the proportion of whites in the recall may include as many as two in three of the state’s recall voters. This is also significant since among white voters who are most likely to participate, preferences on Newsom’s recall are about evenly divided, while the state’s Latinos, and especially Black voters, are much more inclined to be voting No.
In addition, the poll finds significant differences in voting preferences by region, with voters in the state’s two major metropolitan regions of Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area voting No to retain the governor nearly two to one, while majorities of voters most likely to participate in the Central Valley, Orange and San Diego counties, and the Inland Empire are now favoring Newsom’s recall.
A significant gender gap is also seen in the preferences of those most likely to vote, with male voters favoring Newsom’s ouster by seven points, while women are supporting his retention by 13 points. Homeowners, who are likely to outnumber renters among voters most likely to participate, are dividing their votes evenly, whereas renters are backing Newsom by 14 points.
Voting preferences are also very directly tied to the appraisals that voters have of the job Newsom is doing as governor, with nearly all those approving of his performance voting No to retain the Governor and nearly all of those disapproving voting Yes favoring his recall.
A second factor relates to voter expectations about the outcome of the recall. When asked whether or not they think Newsom will defeat the recall, Democrats expect him to do so by a huge 70% to 8% margin. By contrast, Republican voters are far more likely to believe that Newsom will be voted out of office, with 53% holding to this view, and just 21% expecting him to survive the recall. This situation may be contributing to greater complacency among Democratic voters, who largely oppose the governor’s recall, than among Republicans, who predominantly favor his ouster.
Third, the recall election is unlike other statewide elections since in most jurisdictions only two questions will appear on the ballot, the Yes/No vote on the Governor’s recall and who should replace Newsom should he be recalled.
The very limited nature of the two-question ballot contrasts with other statewide elections in which voters are drawn to the polls by numerous state and local candidate and proposition races. In addition, when the poll asked registered voters who they would choose to replace Newsom, very large proportions of Democrats (40%) and No Party Preference registrants (28%) volunteer that they do not expect to cast a vote on that side of the ballot.
By contrast, just 6% of registered Republicans say this. Thus, the greater desire of Republicans to vote in the replacement election may also be giving them greater incentive to participate than their Democratic and No Party Preference voter counterparts.
Voter consideration of candidates running in the replacement election
Voters were also asked which candidates they were considering among some of the most talked about candidates running in the replacement election. In this setting Elder receives the greatest consideration (34%). Next most frequently cited are Cox and Faulconer, each of whom are being considered by slightly more than a quarter of those most likely to vote, 28% and 29% respectively. Smaller proportions of voters – between 11% and 19% – report giving consideration to supporting each of six other candidates, Republicans Kiley, Ose, Jenner, Hewitt, and Gaines, and Democrat Paffrath.
Voters’ greater consideration of Elder as Newsom’s replacement is derived primarily from the fact that he has a very strong following among the Republicans most likely to be voting in the recall, nearly eight in ten of whom (78%) say they are giving consideration to backing his candidacy.
By far the most common response is undecided, cited by 40% of those planning to vote in the replacement election. But, Elder is the candidate receiving the most first choice preferences (18%) in this setting, followed by Cox (10%), Faulconer (10%), and Kiley (5%). Paffrath and Jenner are each cited by 3%.
Elder’s support is again derived primarily from the strong backing of fellow Republicans, 31% of whom are now supporting his bid to replace Newsom. By contrast, the two next most preferred candidates among GOP voters are Cox and Faulconer, but each receives only about half as many first-choice votes as Elder.
The standings in the replacement election necessarily exclude the approximately one in four likely voters, mostly Democrats, who say they do not intend to vote for any of the candidates in the replacement election, since official vote returns in this race will be based only on those casting a vote on this part of the ballot.
This situation creates even greater distortions in the composition of voters who will determine Newsom’s successor should the governor be recalled, as the poll finds Republicans outnumbering Democrats among likely voters who intend to cast a vote in the replacement election.
At present, 50% of registered voters approve of Newsom’s performance while 42% disapprove, similar to the 52% approve and 43% disapprove job marks he received among registered voters in a Berkeley IGS Poll completed three months ago.
However, the Governor’s job marks are slightly more negative than positive among voters most likely to participate in the recall election, with 48% approving and 51% disapproving. More troubling for the Governor still is the fact that a very large share of likely voters (44%) report that they “strongly disapprove” of Newsom’s performance.
By contrast, voters were more evenly divided when asked their views about two pro-recall statements and three anti-recall statements about the election, with Yes voters and No voters generally taking opposite positions on each issue.
Reactions to pro-recall statements
“Newsom should be recalled because he has failed to adequately address many of the state’s longstanding problems, including homelessness, income inequality, energy, wildfires and water.” (Yes voters: 94% agree, No voters: 92% disagree).
“Newsom should be recalled because he greatly overstepped his authority as governor when responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.” (Yes voters: 90% agree, No voters: 96% disagree).
Reactions to anti-recall statements
“The cost of holding the recall election is a waste of taxpayer money.” (Yes voters: 84% disagree, No voters: 93% agree.)
“The recall election is another attempt by the Republican Party to steal elections from Democratic officeholders.” (Yes voters: 91% disagree, No voters: 85% agree).
“The recall election is undemocratic because with so many people running, if Newsom is recalled, a new governor could be elected by winning only a small share of the total vote.”
(Yes voters: 71% disagree, No voters 68% agree).
Editor’s Note: Mark DiCamillo is the director of the Berkeley IGS poll. The poll was administered online in English and Spanish July 18-24, 2021 among a stratified random sample of 5,795 registered voters across California. Results from the sample of voters considered most likely to participate in the election are based on the responses of 3,266 of these voters. The overallmargin of error is estimated at plus- or-minus 2 percent.