New polling numbers show California voters evenly divided about whether they want to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Earlier polling had shown Newsom easily outlasting the recall effort, which was being pushed by Republicans in the heavily Democratic state. But a new poll by the University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, shows a big problem for him: Previously undecided voters are increasingly deciding to dump Newsom.
About half of likely voters in this latest poll say they'll likely vote to retain Newsom. That's similar to numbers in previous polling of registered voters (a different pool from "likely voters"). What has changed is that undecided likely voters appear to be turning against the governor. The number of voters saying they're inclined to vote in favor of the recall has jumped from 36 percent to 47 percent.
Partisan interest in the upcoming vote may also be a problem for Newsom. While Republican voters are deeply invested in the recall, Democrats and independent voters are less so. Only 58 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents poll as interested in the recall election, compared to 90 percent of Republicans. In other words, even though Democrats dramatically outnumber Republicans in California, if many Democrats are uninterested in the recall and don't actually vote, Republicans might win the day.
The poll numbers are good news for Larry Elder, the conservative libertarian radio talk show host running in the recall race as a Republican. He has the most support among the 46 candidates that have been certified as alternatives to Newsom in the recall election, clocking in with 18 percent of likely voters in the latest poll. Elder was originally left out of the list of official candidates over issues related to the release of his tax records, but he sued to get back on the ballot and won.
Other big GOP names like businessman Kevin Cox (the guy with the bear) and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer each have the interest of 10 percent of the voters. Trans Olympian Caitlyn Jenner has just 3 percent. Riverside County Supervisor and Libertarian Party recall candidate Jeff Hewitt has just 1 percent of the interest of likely voters.
The pool of voters who haven't decided on a replacement, however, sits at a whopping 40 percent for this election, scheduled for September 14, which is in less than 50 days. The anti-recall ads I've been seeing here in California have been heavily focused on the partisan Republican roots of the recall to cast it all as a power grab and its supporters as "anti-vaxxers, Q-Anon conspiracy theorists and anti-immigrant Trump supporters." But as I and other Reason writers have noted, there's a lot of unhappiness, oppressive regulation, and financial insecurity in the Golden State, even as Newsom brags (inaccurately, it turns out) about a $75 billion budget surplus. This recall race is about more than the GOP versus the Democrats.