SAN FRANCISCO, March 30, 2021—With signature-gathering complete for potentially placing a gubernatorial recall on the ballot, four in ten likely voters say they would vote yes on removing Governor Newsom in a special recall election. Just over half of Californians approve of the governor’s job performance, similar to ratings in January. Three in four Californians now say the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. As federal policymakers consider immigration reform, there is strong bipartisan support for creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California.
(Note: As a companion piece to the new survey, PPIC is publishing a blog post from president and CEO Mark Baldassare, Five Takeaways on the 2021 Governor’s Recall.)
If a special election to recall Governor Newsom were held today, 40 percent of likely voters say they would vote yes on removing Newsom, while 56 percent would vote no and 5 percent are unsure. Views break along party lines: Republicans (79%) are far more likely than independents (42%) and Democrats (15%) to say they would vote yes. Across regions, support for removing Newsom is highest in the Central Valley (49%) and Inland Empire (47%) and lowest in the San Francisco Bay Area (27%, 41% Orange/San Diego, 40% Los Angeles).
“Forty percent would vote yes to remove Newsom if a special election to recall the governor were held today, with Republicans far more likely to vote yes,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “The share who would now vote to remove the governor is similar to the 38 percent who did not vote for Newsom in the fall of 2018.”
Newsom’s approval rating has held steady so far in 2021. Just over half of Californians (54% adults, 53% likely voters) approve of how he is handling his job as governor, essentially unchanged from January (54% adults, 52% likely voters). This is similar to the share approving in February 2020, before the governor issued COVID-19 stay-at-home orders (53% adults, 52% likely voters). Peak approval for Governor Newsom so far was in May 2020, when 65 percent of adults and 64 percent of likely voters said they approved of his performance.
Most Californians Say the Worst of the Pandemic Is Behind Us
With the number of new cases down nationally, an overwhelming majority of Californians (74%) say that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. This is an increase of 16 percentage points from January (58%). One in five (21%) say the worst is yet to come, compared with more than one in three (37%) who held this view in January. Solid majorities across regions and demographic groups say that the worst is behind us with the pandemic.
At the same time that Californians express growing optimism about the national pandemic, concerns about getting the coronavirus have declined. Less than half of Californians say they are either very concerned (18%) or somewhat concerned (29%) about getting the virus and needing hospitalization—a drop of 13 percentage points since January (25% very concerned; 35% somewhat concerned). However, there are racial and economic disparities in COVID-19 concerns. Across racial/ethnic groups, African Americans (35%), Latinos (25%), and Asian Americans (19%) are more likely than whites (9%) to be very concerned about getting the coronavirus and requiring hospitalization. Californians with annual household incomes of under $40,000 (24%) and $40,000 to under $80,000 (22%) are much more likely than higher-income Californians (9% $80,000 or more) to be very concerned.
Sixty-one percent of Californians say they have already received the vaccine (33%) or that they will definitely get it (28%), up from 48 percent in January (5% already received, 43% will definitely get it). About one in five continue to say that they will either probably not (7%, down from 11% in January) or definitely not (14%, similar to 13% in January) get the vaccine. Across racial/ethnic groups, African Americans remain the most likely to say they will probably or definitely not get the vaccine (29%, down from 55% in January); 22 percent of Latinos (unchanged), 20 percent of whites (down from 25%), and 5 percent of Asian Americans (down from 8%) say they will probably not or definitely not get the vaccine.
“Three in four Californians now believe that the worst is behind us with the COVID-19 crisis, while about one in five continue to say they will definitely not or probably not take the vaccine,” Baldassare said.
About half of Californians say the state is doing an excellent (14%) or good (38%) job of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, while four in ten say the state is doing a fair (29%) or poor (15%) job. The share giving the state positive marks has increased 16 percentage points since January (7% excellent, 29% good, 31% fair, 26% poor).
Overwhelming Majorities Approve of State, Federal COVID Aid
At both the state and federal levels, policymakers recently enacted major legislation that provides economic aid to address the pandemic’s impact; both of these have strong support among Californians. Seven in ten (75% adults, 70% likely voters) support the $7.6 billion COVID-19 relief package signed by Governor Newsom in late February, with views breaking along party lines: 90 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, and 37 percent of Republicans favor it. Support is highest in the San Francisco Bay Area (81%) and Los Angeles (78%); 71 percent in the Central Valley and 69 percent in both the Inland Empire and Orange/San Diego are in favor.
Strong majorities (73% adults, 68% likely voters) approve of the $1.9 trillion federal relief package, though also with a deep partisan divide: 92 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents, and 34 percent of Republicans approve. Here, too, support is somewhat higher in the San Francisco Bay Area (78%) and Los Angeles (76%) than in other parts of the state (71% Orange/San Diego, 69% Central Valley, 69% Inland Empire).
“Californians overwhelmingly favor the COVID relief packages that were recently passed by the state government and the federal government,” Baldassare said.
Support for Path to Citizenship Cuts across Party Lines; Most Support Health Care Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants
As federal policymakers consider comprehensive immigration reform, an overwhelming majority of Californians (85%) say there should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, provided they meet certain requirements—similar to the share since PPIC started asking this question in 2013. Strong majorities across partisan lines hold this view: 93 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents, and 68 percent of Republicans. Across racial/ethnic groups, 92 percent of both African Americans and Latinos, 80 percent of whites, and 79 percent of Asian Americans are supportive.
Asked about providing health care coverage for undocumented immigrants—an idea now under consideration by state lawmakers—66 percent of Californians approve, up from 54 percent in 2015 (the last time PPIC asked this question). Support is far higher among Democrats (82%) and independents (57%) than among Republicans (20%). Overwhelming majorities of Latinos (83%), African Americans (77%), and Asian Americans (70%) are in favor, as are a slim majority of whites (51%).
“Strong majorities of Californians across party lines favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” Baldassare said. “After the year-long COVID crisis, two in three residents favor providing health care coverage for undocumented immigrants in California.”
Most Approve of President Biden’s Performance, while Less than Half Approve of California’s US Senators
Solid majorities of Californians (65% adults, 60% likely voters) approve of how Joe Biden is handling his job as president, similar to the share as Biden was taking office in January (70% adults, 65% likely voters). Strong majorities of African Americans (84%), Latinos (73%), and Asian Americans (69%) approve of Biden, as do 56 percent of whites. Nationally, 54 percent of adults approve of Biden according to a recent Gallup poll.
Asked about California’s US senators, less than half approve. Forty-seven percent of adults and 44 percent of likely voters approve of Dianne Feinstein, with wide variation among racial/ethnic groups: 74 percent of African Americans, 58 percent of Latinos, 43 percent of Asian Americans, and 35 percent of whites approve. Alex Padilla, who took office this past January, has the approval of 44 percent of adults and 42 percent of likely voters. However, about one in three (36% adults, 33% likely voters) either say they haven’t heard enough to have an opinion or don’t know. Here, too, approval varies across racial/ethnic groups: 67 percent of African Americans, 58 percent of Latinos, 38 percent of Asian Americans, and 33 percent of whites approve.
“A solid majority of Californians approve of President Biden, and Senator Feinstein’s approval rating today at 47 percent is similar to last year,” Baldassare said. “The first approval rating of recently appointed Senator Alex Padilla stands at 44 percent, though with many still undecided.”
Four in Ten Say Race Relations in the US Have Worsened in Past Year
Asked about race relations in the US, 43 percent of Californians say things are worse than a year ago, while a third (36%) say about the same and one in five (19%) say better. The share saying things are worse than a year ago has decreased 16 percentage points since prior to the election (59% in September 2020). Asian Americans (50%), whites (48%), and African Americans (44%) are much more likely than Latinos (32%) to say race relations are worse than a year ago.
“A plurality say that race relations in the US today are worse than they were a year ago, including half of Asian Americans in the wake of recent reports of racially motived hate crimes,” Baldassare said.
Overwhelming Majority Say Housing Affordability Is a Problem
Ninety percent of Californians say that housing affordability is a big problem (61%) or somewhat of a problem (29%) in their part of the state, similar to February 2020 (63% big, 25% somewhat). Forty-three percent of Californians say that housing costs are making them seriously consider moving—including 33 percent who say they are considering moving out of the state. Across regions, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area (49%) are most likely to say they’re considering moving due to housing costs (44% Orange/San Diego, 43% Los Angeles, 39% Inland Empire, 37% Central Valley).
“Six in ten Californians say that housing affordability is a big problem in their region, and one in three are seriously considering moving out of the state because of the cost of housing,” Baldassare said.
About the Survey
The Californians and Their Government survey is supported with funding from the Arjay and Frances F. Miller Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the PPIC Donor Circle.
The findings presented above are based on responses from 1,706 California adult residents. The sampling error is ±3.3 percent for the total unweighted sample. Interviewing took place from March 14–23, 2021. For more information on methodology, see page 21.
Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.
The Public Policy Institute of California is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We are a public charity. We do not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor do we endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funders or of the staff, officers, advisory councils, or board of directors of the Public Policy Institute of California.