According to a new survey released late Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPI), just over half of all Californian voters still approve of Governor Gavin Newsom’s performance, with a similar percentage being in favor of keeping him as Governor.
Polls dating back to last year have shown that Governor Newsom has been steadily declining in terms of approval. In September 2020, Newsom held a steady 64% approval rating. But, thanks in part to a wide variety of incidents and decisions including instituting a second statewide lockdown, rolling out a controversial school reopening plan, not acting after a $31 billion EDD fraud incident was revealed, and lying about attending a dinner party at an elite Napa County restaurant where state COVID-19 regulations were ignored despite chastising Californians for not following the same regulations days before, his popularity quickly plummeted.
By February, 36% of all Californians said they would vote him out of office, with his approval rating falling to 45%.
The new PPI survey that covers the month of March found several fluctuations compared to previous polls, with some new figures favoring the Governor and others going against him.
According to the PPI survey, the percentage of Californian voters approving of his job performance climbed back to 54%, largely because of state counties reopening more and more in recent weeks. While Newsom is still nowhere near his high approval rating number from a year ago, he appears to be back above the 50% threshold.
Democrats and Republicans are polarized on Newsom’s approval, with 73% of Democrats approving of him, nearly 80% of Republicans disapproving of him, and just over half of Independents approving of Newsom. The Bay Area was also, by far, Newsom’s biggest supporter. While all other Californian regions had either just above or just below 50% approval, including largely Democratic Los Angeles, the Bay Area approved of his performance with an astounding 65%.
However, while Newsom’s approval rating shot up, so did the number of Californian voters willing to recall him.
The overall percentage of voters now willing to recall Newsom went up from 36% in February to 40% in March with only 56% saying that they would be willing to not recall him. With 79% of Republicans wanting him out and 79% of Democrats wanting to let him stay, the split was firmly broken in Newsom’s favor by independent voters, who currently approve of keeping Newsom 53% to 42%.
Like the approval rating, geography also played a large roll, with Central Valley and Inland Empire residents averaging out to be either a little for or a little against the recall, Los Angeles and Orange/San Diego being a little more on Newsom’s side, and the Bay Area, once again, showing overwhelming support of Newsom with 67% being against the recall.
Good news, bad news for recall supporters with latest survey
While the results were generally more favorable towards Newsom, polling experts have said that the results show that the recall is far from over.
“The PPI California survey looks pretty standard, but there’s a lot of ways to read this,” noted Lillian Ochoa, a Florida-based marketing and opinion research analyst to the Globe.
“For those who are Newsom supporters, it shows that he’s now improving and that he is keeping his base while trying to make inroads in other places. 46% of voters are registered Democrats after all, compared to roughly 25% Republicans, so those high Democratic figures make sense and are a bit more weighty when it comes to raw numbers and not percentages.
“But those wanting a recall can see hope here too, as 40% approving of a recall is high this early on. And, with the election happening this fall sometime, the Governor has a lot of time to dip back down again.”
Others note that there are some benefits for the recall campaign in the PPI poll despite it being more favorable to Newsom.
“Polls like this this are great, even if it swings in the direction you don’t want it to,” former lobbyist Harry Schultz told the Globe. “You can look at all the spots where you know you need to improve. The recall campaign is already affecting many Latinos, which partially explains why the Central Valley and Los Angeles totals are closer than many thought they would be at. But look at some of these numbers. By looking at these, you know you need to work on the gender divide, as more women would vote to keep Newsom than men, and to work on where to canvas more going into the summer. Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego are surprisingly close to being swung away from Newsom, in addition to working on the base support of the Central Valley, Inland Empire and Northern, Northeast part of the state that isn’t listed in the survey but still critical.
“This does give Newsom supporters info on where to canvas too, but really, it helps both sides.”
Ochoa also said that methodology for conducting the surveys may make figures a bit off.
“Of course there is margin of error. There always is,” added Ochoa. “And it’s great to see that PPI is using more cell phones than landlines so we don’t have another surprise ‘Bernie winning Michigan’ upset due to skewed landline numbers.
“But, like Florida, California has a substantial population with transplants that don’t replace their cell phone numbers, even after over a decade of living there. The PPI survey only used California area codes. For a transplant heavy state, that isn’t the best plan, because you miss out on a lot of people, mainly in cities.
“And, of course, you have the same fallacy of any survey in that a lot of people have caller ID and call blocking services. In Florida, the people instituting those lean Republican by as much as 3 to 1, and it may not be all that different in California.
“The PPI survey was well done and very professional, but there are a few critical parts in methodology, like any survey, that shows that it is likely off by a bit.
“So right now, we have a good idea where things are trending, but it’s not exact. It never is.”
Final recall signature validation by the Secretary of State’s office to send the recall to a vote later this year is expected sometime in April.
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