Campaign

Opposition to California recall widens in new poll

California voters appear poised to deliver a solid endorsement of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) as opposition to the recall election mounts and Democratic voters return ballots at a rapid pace.

A new survey conducted by the University of California, Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies for the Los Angeles Times shows 60 percent of California voters would reject the recall, while just 39 percent say they will support removing Newsom from office.

Those results show a substantial change from late July, when just 50 percent said they would vote to retain Newsom and 47 percent said they would vote to oust him a year before his term expires.

It is the latest in a series of polls that show opposition to the recall growing in the closing weeks as Newsom and his allies blanket the airwaves and mount a furious get-out-the-vote effort.

Polls released in recent weeks by SurveyUSA and the Public Policy Institute of California both show opposition to the recall expanding over previous surveys from the same firms. New polls from Suffolk University and YouGov, the first time those firms have sampled California voters, also show Newsom surviving the recall by wide margins.

Pollsters, and both Democratic and Republican strategists, say the landscape in California has changed with the emergence of conservative radio host Larry Elder as the most prominent Republican challenging Newsom. Newsom's campaign has focused on Elder's opposition to mask and vaccine mandates and tied him to former President Trump, who lost California by a huge margin.

"In the early going it was probably more about whether they liked Newsom or not. It was personalized," Berkeley pollster Mark Di Camillo told the Los Angeles Times. Making Elder the face of the opposition, he said, "changed the whole dynamic of the vote."

Elder remains the favored candidate of voters who will choose a candidate to replace Newsom, the second question on a two-part ballot. Just over a third, 38 percent, said they would back Elder; 10 percent said they would favor Kevin Paffrath, a Democrat who dispenses financial advice on YouTube and the only other candidate to top double digits.

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) is the favorite of 8 percent of voters, while businessman and 2018 gubernatorial nominee John Cox (R) and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R) each claim 4 percent. Only 1 percent said they support Caitlyn Jenner (R), the reality television star and former Olympian.

Thirty-one percent, including almost half of the Democrats who said they would vote in the recall, said they would not pick a replacement on the second ballot.

About 7.3 million people, or about 30 percent of California's registered voters, have returned their ballots already, according to a daily tally conducted by the firm Political Data Inc. Registered Democrats have returned 53 percent of all ballots, while registered Republicans account for fewer than half that total.

With just days to go before ballots are due, Paul Mitchell, Political Data Inc.'s vice president, said he expects turnout to top 50 percent, a substantial increase over early projections that estimated a low-turnout affair.

Newsom's team has spent tens of millions of dollars on efforts to grow the turnout in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a nearly two-to-one margin. In the final days, Newsom has campaigned with Vice President Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and his campaign is airing an advertisement featuring former President Obama, all in an effort to excite the Democratic base.

Newsom will campaign Monday with President Biden, the White House announced this week.

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