Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state elections.,
As a recall of Governor Gavin Newsom looks ever more likely, proponents and replacement candidates face an uphill battle to reach the majority needed to remove him from office. The May PPIC survey finds that 40% of California likely voters say they would vote yes to remove Newsom as Governor if a special election were held today. This is unchanged from the 40% who said this in our March survey. While the state’s Democratic leanings drive much of the current opposition to the recall, voter expectations also play a critical role. And in 2021, the voters’ mood is very different from what it was in 2003, during the successful recall of Governor Gray Davis.
What do voters expect a recall to do? In 2003, many expected it to make things better. In our August 2003 survey, 47% of likely voters said that things would get better if Davis were removed from office, while 17% said that things would get worse. This trend was replicated in the September 2003 PPIC Survey—and in the October 7, 2003 recall election, 55% voted to remove Davis and 49% voted to replace him with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Today, when asked what would happen if Governor Newsom were recalled, just 29% say that things would get better, while 34% say things would get worse—and 28% say it would make no difference. For a recall election to gain traction this time, many more voters need to believe that things would get better afterward. Nearly all who say that things would get better if Newsom were recalled would vote to remove him (90%) and nearly all who say that things would get worse would vote to keep him (95%). And those who say it would make no difference? Only 32% would vote to remove him, while 63% would vote to keep him in office.