Motivation has become the buzzword of the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election.
For weeks, liberals gnashed their teeth over poll results showing Republicans almost universally highly “motivated” to vote in the recall. The D.C. press corps and political class – who never really understand California politics outside of fundraising – breathlessly report that Republican motivation might well swamp that of Democrats and lead to a successful recall and Gov. Larry Elder.
Republican motivation is a secondary issue and the replacement candidates are a tertiary issue, if that. The key issue – by a huge margin – is Democratic participation.
But then the first reports of ballots showed Democrats outperforming their levels of voter registration – currently they are 55% of returned ballots while comprising 48% of registered voters
I’m not here to say Gavin Newsom is definitely going to prevail – though I expect so. But I want to say a few words about “motivation.”
When my daughter starts school next week, I will be waking up early to make her a lunch every day. I will do so grudgingly. My motivation will be quite low. However, during the last (remote) school year, I sampled a few school lunches. They were dreadful – so much pre-packaged crap of dubious nutritional value (pre-sliced apples in sealed cellophane, WHY?!). So I will make a sandwich and pack some snacks each day.
Similarly, is it that hard to imagine that a Democrat wouldn’t fill out and send in a short ballot with a push reminding them that it will prevent a Donald Trump acolyte from ascending to the top spot in state government? They only need to be highly motivated for a fleeting moment.
Indeed, Republican motivation is extremely high. In a recent survey, I found 91% of Republican voters were “very motivated” to vote in the recall election. However, two-thirds of Democrats also described themselves as “very motivated.” In sheer numbers, more California Democrats are “very motivated” than California Republicans.
Most NPP/Third-Party voters have supported Democratic candidates in recent statewide elections.
Analysis of the recall election has been backwards.
Republican motivation is a secondary issue and the replacement candidates are a tertiary issue, if that.
The key issue – by a huge margin – is Democratic participation. And even if a small number of Democrats vote in favor of the recall, it likely will make little difference in the final outcome.
If one assumes that 85% of ballots from Democrats will oppose the recall – which is probably a conservative assumption (in both senses of the word) and Democrats comprise 48% of the recall electorate – then the No side is already at 41% of the vote.
Then, assume 95% of Republicans support the recall and they comprise 33% of the recall electorate (a significant over-performance of their 26% of registration). That’s only 31% for the Yes side
In this scenario, our No Party Preference and other third party voters comprise 19% of the recall electorate.
The Yes side would need to win more than 60% of their votes to prevail. That would be a pretty dramatic change in their voting patterns, as most NPP/Third-Party voters have supported Democratic candidates in recent statewide elections.
And if Democrats are 52% of the recall electorate (they are currently 55%), and Republicans a third, then the smaller universe of NPP voters would need to break 3-to-1 in favor of the recall in order for it to pass.
Math doesn’t care about enthusiasm.
And I have a less than a week until I have to start making school lunches.
Editor’s Note: Jonathan Brown is the president of Sextant Strategies & Research, a Democratic polling firm based in Southern California.