Californians are reevaluating their views of the job Gavin Newsom is doing as governor. The latest Berkeley IGS Poll conducted online last week among over 10,000 registered voters finds just 46% approving of Newsom’s performance as governor, while 48% disapprove, 31% of whom disapprove strongly. This represents a big shift in public sentiment from last year when large majorities approved of the job Newsom was doing.
Fueling the decline is the public’s much more negative assessment of the way Newsom and state government are handling the pandemic. The latest poll finds fewer than one in three Californians (31%) rating Newsom as doing an excellent or good job in handling the pandemic overall, down from 49% last September.
Also, just 22% offer a positive rating of the job he and state government are doing in overseeing the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines to the public. In addition, only about half (47%) have a great deal or some trust in the way the governor and state government are setting the rules when issuing stay-at-home orders or setting guidelines for business to follow to slow the spread of the virus, with majorities describing them as inconsistent (62%), confusing (60%) and ineffective (53%).
When asked about the possibility of holding a special election later this year to recall the governor, more voters (49%) feel it would be a bad thing for the state rather than a good thing (36%). And when asked how they would currently be disposed to vote if a recall election were held, while less than half (45%) say they would vote to retain the governor, just 36% say they are now prepared to vote to remove Newsom from office. A relatively large proportion of voters (19%) are undecided.
Observed IGS Co-Director Eric Schickler, “These results should provide a strong warning to the Governor. If the recall election does go forward, the state’s response to the pandemic needs to be seen as more successful for the Governor than it is now for him to be confident of the election outcome.”
Big decline in appraisals of the job Newsom is doing as governor
The poll finds a major reappraisal in public appraisals of the job Newsom is doing as governor over the past four months. Last September a Berkeley IGS Poll found more voters approved than disapproved of the job Newsom was doing by a 64% to 36% margin. The latest poll finds voter views of the governor’s performance much more divided, with 46% approving and 48% disapproving. In addition, twice as many voters now report strongly disapproving Newsom (31%) as strongly approving (14%)
Voters also offer more negative than positive assessments of Newsom when asked to evaluate the governor in four specific areas. For example, just 31% now feel Newsom is doing an excellent or good job in handling the coronavirus pandemic overall, while 22% offer an assessment of fair and 44% rate him as doing a poor or very poor job. These appraisals are nearly reversed from those he received in September, when 49% rated his overall performance on the pandemic as excellent or good and 28% rated him poorly.
Newsom and state government are rated even more negatively when asked about the job they are doing in overseeing the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines to the public. The latest poll finds just 22% of voters rating their performance in this area as excellent or good, while nearly twice as many (40%) feel it has been poor or very poor.
Voters have also become more critical of the governor’s handling of jobs and the economy in California. Fewer than one in four (23%) now rate Newsom as doing an excellent or good job in this area, while 45% rate his performance negatively. Last September just 31% rated Newsom poorly in managing the state’s economy.
Voters offer similar largely negative assessments of the performance of Newsom and state government in trying to balance the safeguarding of public health with the interests of workers and the economy during the pandemic, with 27% grading them as doing an excellent or good job and 45% offering a negative assessment.
Initial voter sentiments about recalling Governor Newsom
When voters are asked about the effort to hold a special election later this year to recall the governor, more voters (49%) think that it would be bad thing for the state than think that it would be a good thing (36%). And if a recall election were held, while fewer than half of the electorate (45%) now says they would vote to retain the governor, just 36% would vote to remove Newsom from office. A relatively large proportion (19%) is undecided.
While voter opinions about recalling the governor divide sharply along partisan and ideological lines, Republicans and strong conservatives are currently more one-sided in their support of the recall than Democrats and strong liberals are in opposing it. Opinions about recalling Newsom are also closely aligned with voter preferences in the last presidential election. Voters who reported backing Joe Biden’s candidacy last year are opposing the recall 70% to 9%, while voting supporting Donald Trump’s re-election favor it 85% to 6%.
On a regional basis opposition to the recall is greatest among voters in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Los Angeles County. On the other hand, supporters outnumber opponents of the recall in Orange County and the Central Valley. In addition, more Black voters and older voters express opposition to recalling Newsom than do younger voters and whites.Many are distrustful of how the governor and the state are setting stay-at-home orders and guidelines for businesses to follow to slow the spread of the coronavirus Just 47% of Californians report having a great deal or some trust in the way Governor Newsom and state government are setting stay-at-home orders and guidelines for businesses to follow to slow the spread of the coronavirus, while 49% have little or no trust.
Trust in the governor and state government in setting rules intended to slow the spread of the virus is greatest among Democrats (71%) and least among Republicans (10%). While a 57% majority of voters in the San Francisco Bay Area say they have trust in the governor and the state in these areas, majorities in nearly all other regions are distrustful. Older voters and voters of color also report greater trust than do voters under 50 and whites.Descriptions that voters apply to the way rules and guidelines have been established during the pandemic Voters were presented with a list of ten descriptions, five positive and five negative, about how the governor and state government are setting guidelines for the public and businesses to follow during the pandemic. The largest proportions of voters cite two negative descriptions, “inconsistent” (62%) and “confusing” (60%), as applying “a lot” or “some” to the way that these guidelines have been established. Two other positive descriptions, “necessary” (59%) and “science-based” (57%), are cited next most frequently.
A 53% majority also cites another negative description, “ineffective”, as applying “a lot” or “some” to the way that these rules and guidelines have been established, while about half also feel the terms “.decisive” (50%) and “overly political” (48%) apply “a lot” or “some.”
In addition, greater than four in ten describe the terms “heavy handed” (46%) and “fair” (44%) as applying “a lot” or “some” to the way these rules have been set, while 40% feel they have been “well thought out.”
Table 5 below reports how voters responded to each of the ten descriptions offered during the
Editor’s Note: Mark DiCamillo is director of the Berkeley IGS Poll. The poll was administered online in English and Spanish Jan. 23-29, 2021 among 10,357 California registered voters. The survey was administered by distributing email invitations to stratified random samples of the state’s registered voters. Reminder emails were distributed to non-responding voters and an opt-out link was provided for voters not wishing to receive further email invitations.