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Newsom Faces New Challengers, Worrying Poll Numbers As Recall Threat Looms

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the 2020 Budget Act on June 29, 2020.
Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom
Governor Gavin Newsom signed the 2020 Budget Act on June 29, 2020.

One poll showed a slight dip in Newsom’s approval rating. The other, larger survey showed it plunged 18 points since September.

A pair of polls released Tuesday showed mixed views of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s performance following a winter surge in California’s coronavirus cases, stay-at-home orders and a growing list of potential challengers amid a recall movement.

The first, a survey from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies — which polled 10,000 registered California voters online — showed 46% approve of Newsom’s performance as governor while 48% disapprove.

Another survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California reached 1,700 California residents via cell phone and landline. That one painted a slightly better picture for the governor: 52% of likely voters approve while 43% disapprove.

Both surveys were conducted in late January. They each show Democratic voters in large part continue to give the governor high marks while Republican voters strongly disapprove.

They were released the same day Kevin Faulconer, the Republican former mayor of San Diego, officially launched his campaign for governor. Faulconer said he will challenge Newsom in 2022 or in a recall election, should it qualify for the ballot.

Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya and Republican businessman John Cox — who lost the governor’s seat to Newsom in 2018 — have also said they would run in a recall election. Palihapitiya on Tuesday also donated $100,000 to the recall effort.

The IGS poll also included questions about an effort to recall Newsom, which appears to be still unpopular among California voters. While 36% say they would vote to recall Newsom, 45% say they would not and 19% were undecided.

Recall organizers now say they have gathered 1.3 million signatures in their effort to place a recall on the ballot. To get there, opponents of Newsom need just shy of 1.5 million valid signatures. County election officials have currently verified at 485,650 signatures, according to the Secretary of State’s most recent update.

The PPIC poll did not ask questions about the recall attempt.

“These results should provide a strong warning to the Governor,” IGS co-director Eric Schickler said in a news release. “If the recall election does go forward, the state’s response to the pandemic needs to be seen as more successful for the Governor than it is now for him to be confident of the election outcome.”

While results from both surveys present a mixed bag for the governor, the Berkeley IGS poll paints a more worrying picture for Newsom: It showed an 18-point slump in his approval rating since September and growing disapproval in his response to the pandemic.

Just 31% of IGS poll respondents gave the state’s coronavirus response high marks, compared to 43% who rated it poorly.

Newsom’s political advisor Dan Newman said the governor is “laser-focused on vaccinations, reopening, relief and recovery” as the state comes off a devastating surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths following the holidays.

“Voters recognize that this is an incredibly challenging, intensely complicated, and critically important moment for public officials worldwide,” Newman wrote in an email.

He noted the 36% of voters who said they would support a recall is in line with typical statewide support for GOP candidates. Former President Donald Trump garnered support from 34% of California voters last year and in 2018, Newsom’s

Republican gubernatorial opponent John Cox lost with 38%.

Copyright 2021 CapRadio