A U.C. Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) poll covering the Gubernatorial, Senate, and Attorney General primary races was released on Friday, showing a strong preference among voters for Democratic incumbents, albeit with a larger than expected percentage of projected votes going towards Republican candidates.
According to the poll, California Governor Gavin Newsom currently has a commanding lead in the Gubernatorial race with 50% of the vote, with 83% of all Democrats, 4% of Republicans, and 46% of non-party voters being in favor of him. Newsom also has majority support amongst all races and geographic locations in the poll. The closest geographic location was the San Joaquin Valley, with Newsom holding an 11 point lead there over the closest GOP candidate.
The closest second-place candidate, Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), only came away with 10% amongst challengers due to the fractured GOP support caused by multiple candidates in the race, including homeless advocate Michael Shellenberger who had a distant third place with 5% of the vote. While both Dahle and Shellenberger had only 1% of the Democratic vote each, Dahle topped GOP voters with 26% compared to Shellenberger’s 10% and non-party voters with 8% in contrast to Shellenberger’s 6%. No other GOP candidate had more than 3% of the vote. 16% of the vote, including a whopping 24% of Republicans and 16% of non-party voters, remain undecided only a few days before the primary election.
In the Senate race, which is split between a full-term race and a part-term race due to former Senator and current Vice President Kamala Harris leaving office early, Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) currently has a large lead in both with 42% in the full-term race and 44% in the partial-term race respectfully. While only 5% of Republicans are with him in either race, at least 70% of Democrats and 35% of non-party voters are generally for him. Undecided was second place in both races, with just over 20% of voters not sure about both races coming into the final week of the race. Around one-third on non-party voters, a quarter of Republicans, and nearly 20% of Democrats remain undecided for both races.
The closest candidate to Padilla, and the only one garnering more than 10%, is Republican constitutional attorney Mark Meuser, who currently has 11% in the full-term race and 14% in the partial-term race. Most of his support is coming from GOP voters, with Meuser garnering 29% support in the full-term race and 38% in the partial-term race.
The Attorney General race also has a Democrat, current Attorney General Rob Bonta, out with a large 46% of the vote lead. Like Newsom and Padilla, Bonta is drawing massive support from Democratic voters, with 77% saying that they would back him, along with 38% on non-party voters, and 5% of Republicans.
Unlike the other races polled by the IGS on Friday, there is a close race for second place. Attorney Eric Early and General Consul Nathan Hochman are currently only separated by 4 points, with Early currently at 16% and Hochman at 12%. While both candidates each have only 1% of Democrats in support of them, Early is leading amongst GOP voters 39%-30% and non-party voters 15%-8%. 19% of voters remain undecided on the race as a whole however, including 20% of Republicans and a quarter of non-party voters remaining unsure so close to the election.
“As expected, conservatives in California will vote for a true conservative,” noted Eric Early campaign supervisor Mike Netter to the Globe on Friday. “An important telling point is that Rob Bonta is not at 50%. That makes it winnable in November. If you combine all the undecided voters and those voting for other candidates now, it will make for a close and interesting race in November. We are very pleased where Mr. Early has put himself.”
— Institute of Governmental Studies (@BerkeleyIGS) June 3, 2022
Incumbents with large leads heading into primary
Eric Schickler, the co-Director of the IGS, said that the poll shows that it is currently encouraging for the Democratic incumbents, albeit with many voters not being excited about the races when compared to last years’ recall attempt of Newsom that drew national and international attention.
“The overall picture is pretty encouraging for the incumbents,” said Schickler. “In the aftermath of last year’s recall election, the statewide primaries this year have not galvanized voters’ attention. The incumbents are running well ahead of their challengers, and the main question is who will come in second under the top-two system, and whether the runner ups in June will be able to gain more traction by November.”
“It does speak to the challenges that a no party preference candidate faces. Republican voters want to vote for Republican candidates, just like Democratic voters vote for Democratic candidates. So then you’re basically relying on the pool of no party preference voters, and a lot of those folks are less interested in politics, less engaged. Some of them are quite informed, but often not as informed.”
However, some analysts pointed out that it is only June, and some factors, like a worsening economy, worsening crime, the George Gascon recall likely appearing on LA County ballots in November, and the recall of progressive office holders such as San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin may help non-incumbents in the long-term.
“This is only the primary,” explained Clair Vollmer, a pollster in Central California, to the Globe on Friday. “There’s a lot of factors at play, especially for the Attorney General race. And if things start going South for some of the incumbents heading into September and October, we may be looking at some very close races.”
The Primary election is to be held in California on Tuesday June 7th.
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