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Senator Dianne Feinstein (Photo: Feinstein.senate.gov)

New UC Berkeley Poll Finds Majority Of Californians Favor Sen. Feinstein’s Resignation

GOP candidate Eric Early, Rep. Katie Porter take narrow leads in poll

By Evan Symon, May 26, 2023 1:07 pm

A new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) poll released on Thursday found that the majority of Californians favor the resignation of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and having Governor Gavin Newsom pick an interim replacement. The poll also found that Democrat Attorney and Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) currently holds a narrow lead in the 2024 Senate race.

Since February, Senator Feinstein fought with Shingles keeping her away from Washington for three months, her absence causing a huge logjam of issues for the Senate, and the later revelation that her illness had been far worse has led to growing call for her to resign from office. While she has refused to resign, many top Democrats and Republicans have called for her resignation. A poll last month even found that 64% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans want Feinstein to resign. In fact, the majority who are in favor of her resigning is across the board, with every demographic including gender, age, race, and ideology calling for her resignation. Her “lowest” numbers came with voters making under $50,000 a year and African Americans, with only 59% of each group favoring resignation.

While Feinstein supporters have disputed figures showing that most Californian want Feinstein out, a new IGS poll on Thursday only confirmed those figures. According to the poll, two-thirds of the registered voters polled (67%) agreed with the statement, “Feinstein’s latest illness underlines the fact that she is no longer fit to continue serving in the U.S. Senate.” When broken down further however, voters tend to be more unsure of what the next steps should be. 42% of voters want her to resign now and have Governor Newsom pick her interim successor. 27% wants her to continue, get well, and finish out her Senate career on her own terms, with 31% not sure.

Democrats and liberals tend to want Feinstein out now, with 52% of Democrats and 56% of those identifying as strongly liberal wanting a replacement Senator. However, Republicans and conservatives lean to not being sure what should be done, with 44% and 45% respectively saying that they don’t know what she should do. Although figures show a slight edge wanting her to finish out her term over resigning due to the incumbency edge an interim candidate would likely have in the race.

Those wanting her to resign also skewed older, with 46% of voter aged 65 and above and 47% of voters between 40-49 being in favor of resignation, while only 36% of voters between 18-29 wanting Feinstein to resign.

Another question showed that Feinstein’s overall favorability has also declined significantly since 2018. According to the poll, in 2018 48% of voters saw her favorably, compared to 49% unfavorably. However, “favorable” fell to 38% in 2021, 37% in February of this year, and 29% in the latest May poll. While Republicans haven’t budged much in favorability, going from 11% favorability in 2018 to 8% in May 2023, favorability amongst Democrats has imploded. In 2018, 75% of Democrats saw her in a favorable light. In the latest poll, this was only at 43%, and dropping fast. A similar drop was seen with non-party affiliated voters, who were at 44% favorability in 2018 and only 22% favorability in May 2023.

“Significantly, support for Feinstein’s resignation and the appointment of a replacement by the Governor is greatest among fellow Democrats and liberals, who favor that outcome greater than two to one,” said IGS Director Mark DiCamillo on Thursday. “By contrast, more Republicans and strong conservatives oppose than support her resignation ostensibly because it would enable Newsom to appoint her successor.”

A close Senate race

Meanwhile, polls for the Senate race showed that the two Primary slots for the Fall 2024 General election were still up for grabs. A previous poll in February showed that Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) was leading the race with 22%, followed by Porter with 20%, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee with 6%. However, the drama over Feinstein’s illness and Attorney Eric Early entering the race as the first major candidate for the GOP shook things up considerably since then, as shown by the current poll figures.

Eric Early. (Photo: Eric Early for Attorney General)

According to the IGS poll, Early now has the lead with 18%, although this is due to him being the only major Republican in the race whilst Democrats have three major candidates in the race. Coming in second was Porter with a close 17%, followed by Schiff who fell to third with 14%. Lee rounded the candidates with 9%. The option of ‘Someone Else’ garnered 10%, with ‘Undecided’ coming in with 32%.

Congresswoman Katie Porter, 45th Congressional District in Orange County. (Photo: porter.house.gov)

Among Republicans, Early has a whopping 49% of support, with the closest runner up being the undecided option with 30%. Amongst Democrats, the story is a bit more chaotic, with 27% supporting Porter, 22% supporting Schiff, 15% backing Lee, and 32% remaining undecided. Porter is also leading amongst those identifying as liberal, with Schiff getting the highest percentage for moderate voters, and Early ahead with conservatives.

While there are some other demographic patterns on voter data ranging from geographic location to age to race, the leading vote getter in each area is Undecided. There are a few outliers, such as 32% of black voters wanting to vote for Lee over 27% Undecided and 28% of Inland Empire voters wanting Early over 26% Undecided, unsure voters tend to make up the largest group due to the election still being so far away.

In terms of favorability, Schiff currently has a narrow edge, coming in with 36% favorable, 32% unfavorable, and 32% no opinion. Porter is close behind, with 35% favorable, 20% unfavorable, and 45% no opinion. The other two were seen more as wild cards, as they aren’t as well known to the public as the other two. Lee  came in with 26% favorable, 19% unfavorable, and 55% no opinion, with Early receiving 18% favorable, 11% unfavorable, and 71% no opinion.

U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-28) addressing the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, June 1, 2019. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“Early’s strong standing in the poll is due to his broad support from fellow Republican and conservative voters. He also polls well among voters in the Inland Empire, the Central Valley, and those living in rural areas of the state, which tend to include more Republicans,” added DiCamillo. “In addition to receiving support from fellow Democrats, Porter’s base of support comes primarily from liberal voters, those living in Orange County, her home district, and voters ages30-49. Schiff also does well among Democrats and outpolls Porter among moderates and voters ages 65 or older. The most distinctive feature of voter support for Lee is her strength among the state’s Black voters, 32% of whom are currently backing her candidacy. Lee also polls well among strongly liberal voters and voters in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, her home region.”

Pollsters tended to agree with the IGS findings on Thursday and Friday, although many did note that some of the results could be a bit skewed.

U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-13) addressing the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, June 1, 2019. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“This latest poll showed that people want Feinstein out, but generally don’t know what to do with her,” LA-based pollster Angie Friedman told the Globe on Friday. “It also showed that voters still don’t have a strong inkling for her replacement. Because, right now, it can be broken. One of the Democrats dropping out could give a huge jump to the other two. The addition of a more moderate candidate could theoretically take away Democratic votes in the primary and lock out Schiff, Lee, and Porter due to them all squabbling.

“It is clear that,, while Early might be ahead now, after the primary, whichever Democrat comes out on top, they’re likely to win. But none are giving an inch right now. Schiff had a narrow lead over other Democrats only a few months ago. Now it’s Porter.

“As for Feinstein, people obviously don’t like her anymore and want her out, but no one can agree on a good exit plan. Republicans don’t want Newsom to have that call and possibly put in a new candidate that would come in as an incumbent. That’s part of the reason Newsom is looking at people like Oprah right now as a caretaker only Senator. Democrats also want her out sooner than later as many are embarrassed by her, but at the same time, many respect her for her past work.

“What is for sure is that there is still a long way to go before the Primary, and we are seeing a lot of turbulence amongst the candidates already.”

More polls on the Senate race and if Feinstein should resign are likely to come in the next several months.

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Evan Symon
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4 thoughts on “New UC Berkeley Poll Finds Majority Of Californians Favor Sen. Feinstein’s Resignation

  1. The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,
    ain’t what she used to be,
    ain’t what she used to be….

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