Poll shocker: Newsom’s job approval is … above water?


Well, in part, anyway. As California governor Gavin Newsom girds up for an all-but-certain recall challenge, a new poll from Emerson and media group Nexstar suggests that the first-termer may well survive it. It also suggests, however, that Newsom might want to look for another line of work even if he makes it to the end of his term.

In other words, it’s not yet time for a celebratory dinner at The French Laundry:

This is one key poll outcome, although not the only result worth noting. It takes a majority of voters to recall a governor, even if it takes a smaller percentage to force the issue onto the ballot. At the moment, the recall vote is still under 40%, although it only trails the opposition to recall by a narrow margin:

There is currently an effort to recall Governor Newsom. Would you vote to recall, or to keep Governor Newsom?

  • Vote to Recall: 38%
  • Vote to Keep: 42%
  • Undecided: 13.9%
  • Would not Vote: 6.1%

What about the undecided? That vote would be dependent largely on job performance and the perceived direction of the state. Right now, those actually favor Newsom (decimals rounded):

  • Overall approval: 42/40
  • Approval on pandemic handling: 45/44
  • Right direction: 57/43
  • Post-pandemic economic direction: 36/39

Even that last metric is barely underwater. The analyst in the above interview correctly notes that recall elections are about how voters feel in the moment and then suggests that these results should worry Newsom. They shouldn’t fill Newsom with confidence, but the poll results don’t show an electorate ready to reverse an election in midterm either. Would an electorate that sees the state going in the right direction by fourteen points want a do-over? That would seem to be a stretch.

On the other hand, however, how do these numbers square with this result?

Maybe California voters just don’t like Newsom, which is certainly understandable, especially after his French Laundry stunt. They may have a certain comfort with the status quo but see no reason to have Newsom stick around for another term. That still doesn’t add up to momentum for a recall, but it’s bad enough that Newsom can’t shake off the potential for losing that vote in the end, either.

Recall organizer Randy Economy — an old school chum of mine*, actually — sees momentum building despite this one poll’s results and the belated pushback from Democrats:

The update comes after several state and national Democratic leaders have publicly rebuked the recall, claiming it’s a partisan power grab by Republicans but supporters say the signatures tell a different story.

“They’re pawns in Gavin Newsom’s chess game. They’re in denial, 38% of the people who have signed our petition are democrats and decline to state [no party preference] so they’re out of touch with their own base,” Economy said.

“It’s coming from some major Democrats, and some people who have never been involved in the political process before,” Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager of Rescue California, said.

It will be a fun process to watch, no matter what happens. Perhaps as this gets closer to reality, we’ll see more polling and a poll track at RealClearPolitics to assess that momentum. In the meantime … pass the popcorn.

*: I did not know Randy was organizing the recall until I read the article.

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