Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Press Release · May 25, 2021

Support for Governor’s Recall Still Falls Short; Outlook on COVID-19 Improves, though Some Groups Lag in Vaccines


SAN FRANCISCO, May 25, 2021—With Governor Newsom likely facing a recall election this year, four in ten likely voters say they would vote yes to remove the governor, with views breaking along party lines. When it comes to the pandemic, an overwhelming majority of Californians say the worst is behind us, though some groups—African Americans and Latinos—are less likely than others to have received the vaccine. There is bipartisan agreement that inequality is growing in California, but views diverge on whether the state should be doing more to address this. 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, “Are Voters in the Mood to Recall Their Governor?”)

If the recall election were held today, 40 percent of likely voters say they would vote yes to remove Newsom from office, while 57 percent would vote no and 3 percent don’t know. Support for the recall is unchanged from March (40%). Views on the recall break along partisan lines, with Republicans (78%) far more likely than independents (47%) and Democrats (11%) to say they would vote to remove Newsom. Support for the recall is higher in inland regions (56% Inland Empire, 49% Central Valley) than coastal areas (42% Orange/San Diego, 32% Los Angeles, 32% San Francisco Bay Area).

“The remarkably stable opposition to the recall of Gavin Newsom is driven by a large and consistent partisan divide that favors the Democratic governor,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Fifty-five percent of adults and 54 percent of likely voters approve of the governor’s job performance, similar to March (54% adults, 53% likely voters) and January (54% adults, 52% likely voters). Newsom continues to have majority approval for his handling of the pandemic (64% adults, 61% likely voters).

Vaccinations Continue to Increase but Lag among African Americans and Latinos

Californians give the state government high marks on distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Three in four say the state is doing an excellent (26%) or good (49%) job distributing vaccines, while 17 percent say it is doing a fair job and 6 percent say a poor job. The share of Californians saying excellent or good has increased 39 points since January (7% excellent, 29% good, 31% fair, 26% poor).

The share of Californians saying either that they have already gotten the vaccine or that they definitely will get it continues to increase. An overwhelming majority say they have already received the vaccine (67%) or will definitely do so (6%), up from nearly half in January (5% already received, 43% definitely will get it). While the state is making vaccine gains overall, African Americans (56%) and Latinos (60%) are much less likely than whites (72%) and Asian Americans (80%) to have already received the vaccine.

“Most Californians say the state government is doing an excellent or good job with COVID vaccines, but African Americans and Latinos lag behind in getting shots,” Baldassare said.

Eight in Ten Say the Worst of the Pandemic Is Behind Us, but Some Groups Have More Concerns about Getting COVID-19

An overwhelming majority (86%) say that when it comes to the United States and the pandemic, the worst is behind us. The share saying the worst is behind us is up from 74 percent in March and 46 percent last May. Less than three in ten Californians say they are very (10%) or somewhat (18%) concerned that they will get COVID-19 and need to be hospitalized. This represents a 19-point drop from March (18% very, 29% somewhat) and a 30-point drop since last May (24% very, 34% somewhat).

“Californians overwhelmingly believe the worst of the COVID crisis is behind us, and the share who fear getting sick and hospitalized from COVID has plummeted,” Baldassare said.

Despite a decline in the overall share concerned about getting the coronavirus, some groups have a higher level of concern than others. Across racial/ethnic groups, Latinos (17%), African Americans (14%), and Asian Americans (13%) are more likely than whites (2%) to say they are very concerned.

Recession Concerns Decline, but Three in Ten Lower-Income Residents Report Being Worse Off Financially than a Year Ago

About half of Californians (53% adults, 52% likely voters) say the state is in an economic recession. The share saying the state is not in a recession is higher today (41% adults, 43% likely voters) than in January (23% adults, 22% likely voters).

Asked about their own financial situation compared to a year ago, most Californians have seen little change: 20 percent say they are better off than a year ago, 56 percent say they are the same, and 24 percent say they are worse off. However, three in ten lower-income residents (29%) —those with annual incomes under $40,000—say they are worse off financially than a year ago (22% $40,000 to under $80,000, 18% $80,000 or more).

“The share of Californians who think we are in a recession is shrinking, but three in ten lower-income residents say they are financially worse off than a year ago,” Baldassare said.

Most Approve of Key Budget Proposals to Provide Financial Assistance

The survey asks about two budget proposals from the governor aimed at providing financial assistance as the state recovers from the pandemic. An overwhelming majority of adults (70%) and fewer likely voters (61%) approve of providing Californians with another round of stimulus checks ($600 for those with incomes under $75,000 and an additional $500 for those with children). Overwhelming majorities of adults (81%) and likely voters (77%)—including majorities across party lines—approve of assisting Californians who fell behind during the pandemic with money to pay overdue rent and utility bills.

“Majorities approve of the governor’s proposals for stimulus checks and help with overdue rent and utility bills as a part of the state’s economic recovery plans,” Baldassare said.

Majorities across Party Lines Say Inequality Is Widening, but Views Differ on Whether the State Should Do More to Address It

Amid the ongoing economic effects of the pandemic, solid majorities of Californians (62% adults, 71% likely voters) say the gap between rich and poor in their part of the state is getting larger. This includes at least six in ten across partisan groups: 72 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents, and 62 percent of Republicans. Across racial/ethnic groups, Latinos (48%) are far less likely than other groups to say the economic divide is growing (74% whites, 64% Asian Americans, 63% African Americans).

Majorities of Californians (65% adults, 58% likely voters) say the state government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor in California. Views break along party lines, with an overwhelming majority of Democrats (83%) saying the state should do more, compared to 56 percent of independents and 34 percent of Republicans.

“Democrats and Republicans agree the gap between rich and poor is getting larger but disagree on the state government doing more to reduce income inequality,” Baldassare said.

Overwhelming Majorities Favor Extending Civil Rights Laws to Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling that protections against discrimination on the basis of sex in the 1964 Civil Rights Act extend to lesbian, gay, and transgender Americans, Democratic lawmakers in Washington introduced the 2021 Equality Act. This bill—which would amend the Civil Rights Act to explicitly prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity—passed the House of Representatives and now awaits action in the Senate.

Asked about the 2021 Equality Act, overwhelming majorities of Californians (71% adults, 70% likely voters) support its passage, with around one in four opposing (22% adults, 25% likely voters). Across party affiliations, 88 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents, and 41 percent of Republicans support the act. Women (76%) are more likely than men (65%) to approve.

When asked about society accepting people who are transgender, 37 percent (43% likely voters) say society has not gone far enough, while 21 percent (21% likely voters) say society has gone too far; 38 percent of adults (34% likely voters) say society has been about right in terms of accepting people who are transgender. Views vary widely across party lines, with 61 percent of Democrats saying society has not gone far enough, while 35 percent of independents and 13 percent of Republicans say this.

“Californians support the 2021 Equality Act, while Democrats and Republicans differ on whether society has done enough in accepting people who are transgender,” Baldassare said.

Solid Majorities Approve of Biden and His Handling of the Pandemic; Most Are Optimistic about the Nation’s Economy

Nearly four months into his presidency, Joe Biden has the approval of solid majorities of Californians: 66 percent of adults and 60 percent of likely voters approve of how he’s handling his job. Views break along party lines, with 88 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents, and 21 percent of Republicans approving. In a recent Gallup poll, 54 percent of adults nationwide approved of Biden’s performance—a smaller share than in California. PPIC’s survey finds that overwhelming majorities of Californians (75% adults, 71% likely voters) approve of how Biden is handling the coronavirus outbreak.

Most Californians (55% adults, 51% likely voters) think the United States will have good times financially in the next 12 months. This is higher than this past January (45% adults, 40% likely voters) and far higher than last May (23% adults, 20% likely voters). Majorities across regions—with the exception of the Inland Empire (39%)—expect the country to have good times financially over the next year (64% Los Angeles, 56% San Francisco Bay Area, 55% Orange/San Diego, 54% Central Valley).

“Majorities approve of President Biden and his handling of the COVID crisis and have a positive outlook on the nation’s economy,” 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 1,705 California adult residents. The sampling error is ±3.2 percent for the total unweighted sample. Interviewing took place from May 9–18, 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.


Public Policy Institute of California