California Republicans are turning on Trump, poll finds

informal headshots of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (left) and incumbent Republican Donald Trump

With less than 100 days until the election, a new Berkeley IGS Poll of likely voters finds that the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, leads Republican President Donald Trump in every major region of California. (Photos by Gage Skidmore via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0)

As the United States struggles with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests against racism, President Donald Trump’s support among California voters is eroding even in conservative areas of the state, according to a new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies (IGS).

The Berkeley IGS Poll found that, just three months before the Nov. 3 election, 67% of likely California voters favor former Vice President Joe Biden, compared to 28% for Trump. Biden’s lead extends across every major region of the state, with double-digit margins even in traditionally conservative areas such as Orange County, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley.

“We’re seeing declines in Trump’s job performance ratings, and I attribute it to the coronavirus,” said IGS Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. “It’s the No. 1 issue in America. It’s probably the No. 1 issue in California. The public is just not comfortable with his performance on this issue.”

The dissatisfaction with Trump’s leadership is also consistent across demographic groups, said IGS co-Director Eric Schickler.

“Biden’s overwhelming support across all racial groups is striking,” said Schickler. “He leads by at least a two-to-one margin among white voters, Latinos, Black voters and Asian Americans. In many states, white voters are closely divided and there are big differences in the views of President Trump across racial groups. Not so in California.”

DiCamillo said that Trump’s flagging support in traditionally conservative regions of California reflects a small but potentially significant loss of support from his base. Until now, Trump’s support had weathered criticism and crisis that would have sunk other politicians.

But the numbers suggest that the president’s support in those areas has sustained significant damage.

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump lost Orange County to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by nine points, 51% to 42%, But in the new Berkeley IGS Poll, Trump trails Biden by 17 points.

In 2016, Trump lost the Inland Empire region to Clinton by eight points, 51% to 43%. This year, he trails Biden by 22 points.

In the Central Valley, Trump lost the 2016 contest by just three points to Clinton, 48% to 45%. But the new poll shows him 23 points behind Biden.

A similar trend is also evident in statewide public opinion on Trump’s job performance.

In six polls dating to December 2017, the IGS Poll found favorable opinions of the president starting at 30% and rising to 33% in January this year; disapproval ranged from 66% to 69% in that period. But the new poll found that Trump’s ratings have fallen to their lowest point: 29% now approve of his performance, while 71% now disapprove. And among people who disapprove, the percentage who disapprove strongly is up six points, to 63%.

“He does seem to be losing some of his base,” DiCamillo said. “You’re seeing that in the more rural areas of the country. A lot of that is traceable to the fact that the coronavirus is now invading the red states. Even in places like Texas and Florida, where he won comfortably in 2016, he’s now in a dogfight with Biden in those polls.”

The new Berkeley IGS poll also found that the state’s Democratic voters support two prominent California political figures under consideration as Biden’s vice presidential running mate: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, the former California attorney general; and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, now serving her fifth term representing parts of the Los Angeles area after serving as Speaker of the California House of Representatives.

Harris, however, is clearly more well known. The poll found that 68% of Democratic voters favor Harris, with 20% opposed. Bass won favorable views from 46% of voters with only 10% opposed, but 44% had no opinion about her.

The Berkeley IGS Poll was conducted online, in English and Spanish, from July 21 to July 27, 2020, with responses from 8,328 California registered voters, including 6,756 considered likely voters in November. The approximate margin of error is 2%.