Californians likely to vote in September’s recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom are divided on whether to oust the Golden State’s first-term embattled Democratic governor, according to a new poll.
And a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times survey released on Tuesday indicates that conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who won a court battle last week to appear on the ballot, is the current front-runner among the nearly four dozen candidates running to replace Newsom, should he be recalled.
Forty-seven percent of likely California voters questioned in the poll said they supported recalling Newsom, with 50% opposed.
But among the wide pool of all registered voters, support for recalling the governor drops to 36%, with 51% supporting keeping Newsom in office.
The poll indicates how crucial turnout will be in the Sept. 14 election in a state where registered Democrats greatly outnumber registered Republicans, but Republicans appear to be more motivated to cast ballots in the recall contest. Although Republicans only account for roughly a quarter of all registered voters in California, the poll indicated they made up a third of those most likely to vote in the recall election.
"The governor’s in jeopardy among those most likely to be voting," Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS Poll, told Fox News.
Voters will be asked two questions on the Newsom recall ballots, which will be mailed to California voters starting in the middle of August. The first question is whether the governor should be removed from office. If more than 50% support removing Newsom, the second question offers a list of candidates running to replace the governor.
DiCamillo pointed to three reasons why "Republicans were much more likely to say they’d be turning out."
He said that "Republicans are expressing much greater interest in voting in the recall" than Democrats or independents.
DiCamillo added that "there’s greater complacency among Democratic voters. Nearly all of them think Newsom is going to survive this, and I think that’s holding back some of their voters from thinking it’s important to vote. Republicans are much more confident that they think they can turn the governor from office."
And he said that "the ballot itself kind of lends itself to greater Republican participation," because there are no major Democrats running to replace Newsom.
On the ballot's second question – replacing Newsom – the poll indicated Elder stood at 18% support, with businessman and 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox and former two-term Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego each at 10% support.
Republican Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic gold-medal-winning decathlete turned transgender rights activist and nationally known TV personality, is tied for fifth place with 3% support. Forty percent were undecided.
The recall push was launched in June of last year over claims the governor mishandled the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The effort was fueled by the state's COVID restrictions on businesses and houses of worship, school shutdowns and even opposition to the state's high taxes. But the effort surged in the autumn after Newsom's dinner at an uber-exclusive restaurant, which – at best – skirted rules imposed by the governor to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
State election officials announced in April that the recall effort had garnered more than the 1.5 million valid signatures needed to make the ballot.
Republicans see the recall election as their best chance to topple a politician who has never lost an election during his years as San Francisco mayor, California lieutenant governor and now governor — and their first chance to win a statewide contest since the 2006 gubernatorial reelection victory by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a moderate Republican.
Three years earlier, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis became the second governor in U.S. history to be successfully recalled and was succeeded by Schwarzenegger, who won the recall election.
The poll was conducted July 18-24, with 5,795 registered voters – including 3,266 likely recall election voters – questioned. The overall margin of error is plus or minus 2 points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 votes for likely voters.