Poll: Newsom leads the pack for governor, followed closely by Villaraigosa

Gavin Newsom holds the lead in next year’s open primary race for California governor, according to the latest poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, but fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa is nipping at his heels.

Newsom, the lieutenant governor and former San Francisco mayor, has been seen as the frontrunner to replace Gov. Jerry Brown and move into the governor’s mansion.

The new Berkeley IGS Poll shows Newsom as the choice of 22 percent of the state’s likely voters, while Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor, is supported by 17 percent of likely voters.

The results show Newsom has gained 1 percentage point in support and Villaraigosa has gained 6 points since a similar poll was conducted in the spring

About 37 percent of voters — about one in three — are undecided a year before the vote.

The poll reveals stark differences between Newsom’s supporters and Villaraigosa’s:

  • Villaraigosa is backed by 42 percent of Latino voters, and Newsom has strong support among white, non-Latino voters.
  • Newsom is favored by voters living in Northern California, while Villaraigosa leads in a 10-county area of Southern California — which contains about 58 percent of California’s voters — by two to one.
  • Newsom is favored by liberals and voters with household incomes of $100,000 or more. Villaraigosa’s strongest support comes from those earning less than $40,000 annually, and he is backed by just 13 percent of voters self-identifying as strongly liberal.
  • Democrats favor Newsom over Villaraigosa by 40 percent compared to 26 percent.

Two Republican candidates, former California Assembly member David Hadley of the San Diego area,and Rancho Santa Fe venture capitalist John Cox, won support of 7 and 9 percent of the likely voters surveyed.

Two other Democratic contenders, State Treasurer John Chiang and former State Schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin, came in with 5 percent and 3 percent of the likely voters interviewed.

The results stem from phone interviews conducted between May 4-29. The Berkeley IGS Poll is housed within the IGS’s Jack Citrin Center for Public Opinion Research.

Read more about the poll on the IGS website