Aug. 10, 2021 — A stark new poll was released for the Sept. 14 California recall campaign, and the surprising results project Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) falling well behind in his battle to remain in office.
While several polls released in the past 10 days showed a weakening of Newsom’s position, the new Survey USA data (Aug. 2-4; 1,100 California adults, 888 registered California voters, 613 likely California recall election voters, 545 California voters who say they will answer the replacement candidate question; online) reveals a more extreme result.
Asked whether the sample of registered California voters would vote to recall the governor, for the first time, a 51 percent majority said they would. Those who support retaining him numbered only 40 percent.
Republicans, a distinct minority in the state but a more motivated group for this election, would vote to recall in an 8:1 ratio. Conversely, Democrats unsurprisingly favor retaining the governor, but by a smaller 3:1 ratio.
The S-USA poll sees a potentially very serious problem for Newsom in the independent category. By a 50-33 percent majority, the non-affiliated respondents would vote to remove him from office. Should this finding prove accurate, Newsom would be in danger of losing his position.
A major difference lies between those saying they are “certain” and “likely” to vote. The certain voters break 57-39 percent in favor of removal; the likely category: 43-36 percent for retention.
Differing patterns arise among racial segments. Whites heavily favor removal, 56-35 percent. Hispanics, by a 47-41 percent margin, do as well. Blacks and Asians are overwhelmingly in Gov. Newsom’s corner, however. Asians favor retention, 62-25 percent, while the small segment of blacks tested are virtually unanimous in their support for the governor.
Survey USA also segmented those claiming to be vaccinated, and those who do not. The unvaccinated, unsurprisingly, are overwhelmingly for the recall, 67-27 percent. Even a plurality of the vaccinated segment, however, also favors the recall: 47-43 percent.
The S-USA pollsters also identified reasons why those supporting the recall are doing so. Most of the responses center around how Newsom has handled the COVID-19 issue. A total of 34 percent said they are voting to recall because of “COVID issues.” Another 18 percent said the state spending is the main reason for their vote to remove Newsom. The unemployment compensation issue, and Newsom’s handling of it, was the significant reason motivating 12 percent of “yes” vote respondents (the position that supports removing the governor from office).
Referring to the highly publicized meal that Gov. Newsom had at the French Laundry restaurant where he and his guests were filmed seated without masks, 10 percent said this is the principal reason they support recalling him. Others are concerned about institutions (business and educational) being closed. A total of 17 percent said the closures (13 percent business; four percent schools) are driving their vote to recall.
The Survey USA results also found a different result from other pollsters in relation to who the respondents would support as Gov. Newsom’s replacement. In all other polls, conservative commentator and radio talk show host Larry Elder (R) was leading the group of 46 candidates.
Here, little known real estate broker Kevin Paffrath, one of the few Democrats on the ballot, leads the candidate group with 27 percent support. Elder is a close second with 23 percent. Following are 2018 gubernatorial election finalist John Cox at 10 percent, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer with five percent, who is just ahead of ex-US Rep. Doug Ose and reality media personality Caitlin Jenner’s four percent figure, and state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley’s (R-Granite Bay/Sacramento) three percent.
While the Survey USA result is the most extreme in favoring Newsom’s removal from office, the polling trends have been moving that way, so this study may not be such a huge outlier.
Additionally, Survey USA is a highly reliable research source. The FiveThirtyEight statistical organization’s polling rankings rates Survey USA as the fifth-best polling firm of the 494 research firms tested in their latest ratings.
The most recent polling trends suggest that the final six weeks of California recall campaign will become much more interesting than the initial prevailing wisdom suggested.