The recall election in California scheduled for September 14 weighs heavily on Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom. Their increasingly agitated and bizarre media appearances indicate that he is starting to take the matter seriously. The recent polling figures show that his concerns are likely well-founded.
A poll published on August 12 that surveyed only heavily Democratic Los Angeles County found that only 49 percent of respondents favored retaining Newsom as governor while 41 percent favored recall. Newsom carried the county in the 2018 gubernatorial election with 71 percent of the vote.
The poll did not ask for a comparison of Newsom with any other candidate, but only whether he should be removed. If most voters in the recall election vote to recall Newsom, then his term will be completed by the replacement candidate in the second part of the ballot receiving the most votes.
A UC-Berkeley poll from July indicated that 47 percent of likely voters statewide favored recalling Newsom. Fifty percent favored retaining the governor.
Another recent poll from Emerson College shows that 46 percent of voters favor recall as of early August. A similar survey by Emerson in mid-July indicated only 43 percent in favor of the recall. Other polls around the state suggest that previously undecided voters are breaking more heavily to recall Newsom.
Polling also indicates an enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, with GOP voters more motivated to go to the polls on election day. Republican enthusiasm has also ticked upward as conservative media figure Larry Elder’s campaign to be the replacement governor in the event of recall has begun to surge in recent days.
Newsom has been considering new COVID lockdowns as the recall election approaches and has already reimposed a mask mandate. As the new school year approaches, he is also floating the prospect of closing schools to in-person education yet again.
California will not become a Republican stronghold again anytime soon, nor is it likely to vote for a GOP presidential candidate in 2024. However, the backlash against Democratic economic and COVID policies is real and tangible in 2021.