Poll: California Leaning ‘No’ on Recall

With Sept. 14 recall vote looming, Gov. Gavin Newsom has 51% job approval, far ahead of recalled Gov. Gray Davis in 2003

With less than a week to go, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom appears likely to fend off a recall movement and serve out the remaining months of his gubernatorial term, according to a Suffolk University poll of likely voters taken Sept. 6-7.

The recall election will officially take place Tuesday, Sept. 14, though many voters have already cast ballots in advance of the election. Voters are being asked just two questions: whether or not to recall Newsom, and which candidate should succeed him if he were to be recalled.

In the statewide survey, voters rejected the recall by a margin of 58% to 41%. This was primarily due to an even wider margin among those who have already voted (65%-35%) and those who are planning to vote by mail (66%-32%).

"If you were filling out your ballot right now, would you vote yes, to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office? Or would you vote no, to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office?"
Suffolk University California Recall Election Poll September 8, 2021

“The no side is successfully building a cushion of ‘no’ votes to protect Gov. Newsom from any late-breaking surges leading up to election day,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “Newsom’s job approval of 51% is much higher than the 30% approval of ex-Gov. Gray Davis when he was recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. And unlike 2003, Newsom benefits from massive numbers of early voters who are giving him what could be an insurmountable lead.”

If the recall does prevail, Republican candidate and talk show host Larry Elder (39%) will move into the governor’s office, replacing Newsom. The poll shows Elder with a commanding lead over the other 45 listed candidates on the official California ballot, all of whom are in single digits. Over 4 in 10 (44%) said they would leave the second question blank.

Bellwether counties back up statewide trends

Suffolk University also polled two bellwethers, Lake County and Santa Barbara County, both of which confirm the “no” trend in the statewide poll. In Lake County the “no” side prevailed 52% to 44%, and in Santa Barbara County the margin was 56% to 43%. In Lake County, the margin was 64% to 36% among those who have already voted, and among mail-in voters the “no” side prevailed 56% to 36%. In Santa Barbara County, the already voted and mail-in margins were 63% to 36% and 55% to 42%, all on the “no” side as well.

“Our bellwethers are designed only to pick outcomes, not margins, but they are important data points when combined with the Suffolk University statewide findings, which paint virtually the same picture. On election night I will certainly be watching the returns from these counties first, even though by today’s demographics they seem to be relatively more conservative than the rest of the state,” Paleologos said.

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