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Exclusive poll: Californians split on Newsom as recall looms

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (NEXSTAR) — A new poll released by Nexstar Media Group’s six California Television Stations along with Emerson College found Californians are split when it comes to Governor Gavin Newsom’s performance and he has his work cut out for him if he is to hold onto his office for another term.

The exclusive new statewide poll of more than 1,000 registered voters which has a margin of error of +/- 3%, shows Californians support keeping Governor Newsom if the recall campaign against him succeeds in forcing an election.

More than 50% of voters must say yes they want the governor recalled, our poll shows he is well below that number at the moment.

There is currently an effort to recall Governor Newsom. Would you vote to recall, or to keep Governor Newsom?

  • Vote to Recall: 38%
  • Vote to Keep: 42%
  • Undecided: 13.9%
  • Would not Vote: 6.1%

Spencer Kimball, the Director of Emerson Polling, says “the Republicans are in favor of the recall regardless of which candidate they put up and the Democrats are still with Newsom, but there is a weaker support for the governor among younger Democrats and if a fresh new face emerges on the left that could be a game-changer in Newsom’s Democrat support and a boost in the recall effort.”

Despite that, a majority of Californians believe a change in the governor is needed in 2022 when Newsom is up for re-election.

Regardless of the recall effort, would you vote to re-elect Governor Newsom in 2022, or do you think it is time for someone new?

  • Re-elect Governor Newsom: 41.7%
  • Time for Someone New: 58.3%

The poll found respondents were nearly evenly split if they approved of Newsom’s job as Governor: 41.8% said they approved, 40.3% said they disapprove and 17.9% were unsure or had no opinion.

Californians are also divided on how the governor has handled the year long pandemic:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Gavin Newsom has done on managing the COVID-19 pandemic in California?

  • Approve: 45.4%
  • Disapprove: 43.7%
  • Unsure/No Opinion: 10.9%

Kimball notes that “part of the issue for Governor Newsom is his management of the COVID-19 pandemic, where voters are split in their approval. However, his falling popularity doesn’t appear to be caused by the mask mandate, as a majority (51%) of Californians think it is the right measure, compared to 23% who think it doesn’t go far enough and 26% who said it goes too far.”

Despite the governor’s mixed bag in popularity and job performance, a majority of Californians agree that the state is on the right track.

Generally speaking, would you say California is moving in the right direction or headed down the wrong track?

  • Right Direction: 57.4%
  • Wrong Track: 42.6%

Additionally, another part of the effort to recall Governor Newsom could be the economic state of
California after COVID-19, as 39% of voters think California is on the wrong path for economic
recovery after COVID-19, compared to 36% who say things are on the right path, and 25% who
are unsure at this time.

This poll comes as the governor is facing a potential recall election. Organizers of that campaign say they have collected more than 2 million signatures, well above the 1.5 million needed by March 17 to force a recall election. The signatures still need to be verified. Right now a slim majority of Californians say they will vote to keep Newsom in office if a recall election does take place, but a significant portion of voters remain undecided.

As you might imagine the recall effort appears to be breaking down along party lines:

When broken down by party affiliation:

Vote to Recall

  • 11.8% of Democrats
  • 86.2% of Republicans
  • 39.4% of Independents

Vote to Keep

  • 65.6% of Democrats
  • 6.3% of Republicans
  • 34.5% of Independents


  • 16.4% of Democrats
  • 6.7% of Republicans
  • 15.8% of Independents

Would not Vote

  • 6.2% of Democrats
  • 0.8% of Republicans
  • 10.3% of Independents

A majority of Californians are at least moderately interested in the recall election.

How interested would you say you are in this recall election?

  • Extremely Interested: 26.6%
  • Very Interested: 17.4%
  • Moderately Interested: 23.1%
  • Only a Little Interested: 13.3%
  • Not at all Interested: 19.7%

The Recall Effort

The recall effort against Governor Newsom gained steam over the winter as coronavirus cases spike in California, keeping schools and businesses closed to the frustration of many Californians.

Outrage grew after Newsom was caught having dinner at the high-end Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry, which was contrary to his own public health advice.

Newsom, who also has faced criticism over the state’s slow vaccine rollout earlier said last week there are several lessons he learned while the state’s fight against the pandemic.

Newsom conceded the state could have done a better job educating and communicating to the put public as state restrictions changed throughout the past year.

Recall organizers say they have collected more than 2 million signatures, well above the 1.5 million needed by March 17 to force a recall election. The signatures must still be validated.

The GOP has only 24% of registered California voters, but organizers say they are attracting Democrats and independents.

“What we’re seeing right now is Democracy in action at full throttle,” Randy Economy, the senior advisor of Recall Gavin Newsom, said.

The group needs 1.5 million signatures validated by state elections officials, they say the amount they have now could offset a potential rejection rate of 25% of the signatures collected so far they say their verification rate is at 82%.

The update comes after several state and national Democratic leaders have publicly rebuked the recall, claiming it’s a partisan power grab by Republicans but supporters say the signatures tell a different story.

“They’re pawns in Gavin Newsom’s chess game. They’re in denial, 38% of the people who have signed our petition are democrats and decline to state [no party preference] so they’re out of touch with their own base,” Economy said.

“It’s coming from some major Democrats, and some people who have never been involved in the political process before,” Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager of Rescue California, said.

Newsom’s campaign manager Dan Newman said Thursday the Republican recall is a partisan attempt to install a Trump supporter as governor.

“We’re not going to change course because of a few naysayers and doomsdayers.”

But recall organizers say the governor’s vaccine tour, state of the state address, and recent policy changes have not slowed down the signature-gathering effort.

Once the signatures are in this week, election officials have until around April 19 to finish verifying all of them.

Nexstar Media has stations In San Francisco (KRON4), Sacramento (Fox40), Fresno (KSEE/KGPE), Bakersfield (KGET), Los Angeles (KTLA), and San Diego (Fox5).

The Nexstar Media Group/ Emerson College poll was conducted March 12-14, 2021. The sample consisted of California registered voters, n=1,045, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3 percentage points.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.