Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Press Release · September 1, 2021

Recall of Newsom Still Falls Short of Majority; About Half of Likely Voters Do Not Currently Have Choice for Replacement


Related Event California’s 2021 Recall Election · September 2, 2021 Contact

Steven Bliss
Director of Digital Strategy

Email 415-291-4412

SAN FRANCISCO, September 1, 2021—With the special election to recall Governor Gavin Newsom less than two weeks away, the share of California likely voters who say they would remove Newsom still falls short of a majority, while about half of likely voters do not currently have a choice for a replacement. Solid majorities of Californians favor requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter large outdoor gatherings or certain indoor spaces. 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 by president and CEO Mark Baldassare, “Key Opinion Shifts in California’s Recall Election.”)

Among California likely voters, 39 percent would vote yes to remove Newsom, while 58 percent would vote no. The share saying they would vote yes is the same as on prior PPIC Statewide Surveys in March (40%) and May (40%). Fifty-three percent of likely voters approve of how Newsom is handling his job as governor, similar to levels throughout 2021 so far.

Asked about replacement candidates on the recall ballot, about half of likely voters say either that they favor no one or wouldn’t vote (25%) or that they are still unsure (24%). Among likely voters, one-quarter (26%) would choose Larry Elder. He is followed by Kevin Faulconer (5%), John Cox (3%), Kevin Kiley (3%), and Caitlyn Jenner (1%).

“The share of likely voters who would vote yes to remove Governor Newsom continues to fall short of a majority, and about half are either undecided or would not vote for one of the replacement candidates,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

(Likely voters are identified based on their responses to questions about voter registration, previous election participation, intentions to vote this year, attention to election news, and current interest in politics.)

The new statewide survey also finds:

  • Most say the recall outcome is very important, but views vary across parties. An overwhelming majority of likely voters (70%) say the recall election’s outcome is very important to them, including 75 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans, and 62 percent of independents. Slightly less than half (47%) of all likely voters are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the recall. Republicans (54%) and independents (53%) are more likely than Democrats (40%) to say they are more enthusiastic.“Solid majorities of California likely voters across party lines say the outcome of the recall election is very important to them, while Republicans and independents stand out as being more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the recall,” Baldassare said.
  • Most approve of Newsom’s and Biden’s handling of COVID—which Californians identify as the top issue facing the state. Asked to name the top issue facing the state, one in five Californians (21%) say COVID-19—more than other issues (12% jobs and the economy, 11% homelessness, 7% government/problems with elected officials, 7% housing costs/availability). Asked about how Governor Newsom is handling the coronavirus outbreak, majorities (60% adults, 58% likely voters) approve of his performance. Solid majorities (66% adults, 63% likely voters) approve of how President Biden is handling the pandemic.“COVID-19 tops the list when Californians are asked to name the most important issue facing the people of the state, and majorities approve of the way that Governor Newsom and President Biden are handling their top issue,” Baldassare said.
  • The state gets high marks for vaccine distribution—though gaps remain. An overwhelming majority say the state has done an excellent (28%) or good (50%) job of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, similar to May 2021 (26% excellent, 49% good). Nearly eight in ten (77%) say they have already gotten the vaccine, and another 7 percent say they definitely or probably will get it. Still, vaccine uptake is lower among Republicans, Inland Empire residents, and African Americans.“Most Californians continue to say that the state government is doing an excellent or good job in distributing COVID vaccines, while racial/ethnic disparities and other divides persist in getting the vaccine in people’s arms,” Baldassare said.
  • Most support requiring proof of vaccination to enter large outdoor gatherings or certain indoor spaces. Solid majorities of Californians (61% adults, 62% likely voters) say that proof of vaccination against COVID-19 should be required for entering large outdoor gatherings or certain indoor spaces. Across partisan groups, Democrats (83%) are far more likely than independents (52%) or Republicans (29%) to hold this view.
  • Views are divided on the state’s direction and the near-term outlook for the US economy. Slightly less than half (47%) say things in California are going in the right direction, with partisans deeply divided (66% Democrats, 36% independents, 15% Republicans). Similarly, Californians are divided on whether the US will have good or bad financial times in the next 12 months (44% good times, 47% bad times). Democrats (58%) are far more likely than independents (36%) and Republicans (16%) to expect good times financially for the nation.“Californians give mixed reviews when asked if things in the state are going in the right or wrong direction, and partisans are deeply divided about whether the nation will be in good or bad economic times during the next 12 months,” Baldassare said.

This latest PPIC Statewide Survey was fielded between August 20 and August 29, 2021, and includes responses from 1,706 California residents.

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 ±3.4 percent for the total unweighted sample and ±4.5 percent for the 1,080 likely voters. Interviewing took place from August 20–29, 2021. For more information, please see the methodology section in the full survey report..

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.

Public Policy Institute of California