Politics & society, Research

Newsom opens solid lead in California recall, says new Berkeley IGS Poll

Democrats are energized and turning out to keep the governor in office, poll finds

informal portrait of California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Democratic voters are energized, and they dominate the electorate. A new Berkeley IGS Poll says that gives Gov. Gavin Newsom a growing advantage as the recall election heads to a close on Tuesday Sept. 14. (Flickr photo by Gage Skidmore)

With Democratic voters energized and far outnumbering California Republicans, Gov. Gavin Newsom appears poised to turn back a recall drive in a vote that closes Tuesday, according to a new poll from the UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies (IGS).

Among likely voters, 60% said they would be voting to retain the Democratic governor, while 38.5% said they would be voting to recall him. A Berkeley IGS Poll just six weeks ago found an almost even split, suggesting that Newsom was at risk of losing office just a year before the next regular election.

Nearly 40% of California voters already had cast their ballots as the new survey was being conducted, and they were voting to retain Newsom by a two-to-one margin, the pollsters reported.

“The tide of likely voter preferences in this year’s gubernatorial recall election has turned,” said an analysis that accompanied the new poll results released today.

The IGS Poll found that attitudes about the recall are sharply polarized along party lines. Only 6% of Democrats favor the recall, versus 92% of Republicans. Among voters with no party preference, nearly two-thirds said they would reject the recall and retain Newsom.

Under state election procedures, voters have the opportunity to select another candidate to replace Newsom should he be recalled and removed from office. Among 46 candidates spanning the political spectrum, the IGS Poll found that right-wing talk-show host Larry Elder is leading, favored by 38% of likely voters.

Nearly 70% of Republican voters back Elder, while his support from Democrats and those with no party preference lag far behind.

More than 30% of likely voters — and nearly half of Democrats — told the pollsters they did not or will not vote for a replacement candidate.

Right-wing political groups, many loyal to former President Donald Trump, have worked to recall Newsom since his early days in office. They have cited his record on immigration, homelessness, crime and other issues. They have criticized him for a state unemployment system that has been plagued by breakdowns and failed oversight as claims soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newsom and his allies have focused their campaign on Elder, describing him as an extremist far out step with California voters. Elder opposes gun control, has said there should be no minimum wage and has dismissed the idea of systemic racism. He has attacked legal abortion and government efforts to combat climate change.

The poll of more than 6,500 likely voters was conducted online, in English and Spanish, from Aug. 30 through Sept. 6. The margin of error is plus or minus two percentage points.