SACRAMENTO (INSIDE CALIFORNIA POLITICS) – An exclusive Inside California Politics / Emerson College poll found Californians are split when it comes to Governor Gavin Newsom’s performance as the recall election nears. 

The exclusive new statewide poll of more than 1,000 registered voters, which has a margin of error of +/-2.9%, shows while Californians support keeping Gov. Newsom in office despite the recall campaign against him, more than half think it’s time for some new leadership in 2022.

Would you vote to recall or to keep Gov. Newsom? 

Vote to recall: 43%
Vote to keep Gov. Newsom: 48%
Undecided: 9%

More than 50% of voters must say “yes” they want the governor recalled. Our poll shows he is below that number at this time.

Despite nearly half of respondents saying they would vote to keep Newsom, 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 Gov. Newsom in 2022 or do you think it is time for someone new?

Re-elect Gov. Newsom: 42%
Time for someone new: 58%

Nearly half of the respondents approve of how Newsom is performing as governor overall, while 42% disapprove. 

Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the job Gov. Gavin Newsom is doing as governor?

Approve: 49%
Disapprove: 42%
Unsure or no opinion: 10% 

Earlier this year, Newsom acknowledged mistakes in communicating with the public last year before the first loosening of coronavirus restrictions led to an early summer spike in cases. 

The poll found respondents mostly rated Newsom’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as poor, while 28% rated it as good, 20% said it was excellent, and 19% said it was fair.

How would you rate the job Newsom has done to handle the COVID-19 pandemic – excellent, good, fair, or poor? 

Excellent: 20%
Good: 28%
Fair: 19%
Poor: 33%

When it comes to California’s homeless crisis, more than half of respondents rated Newsom’s response as poor. A total 25% voted fair, with 16% voting good. Seven percent of respondents said his response was excellent.

How would you rate the job Gov. Newsom has done to handle homelessness – excellent, good, fair, or poor?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 16%
Fair: 25%
Poor: 52%

When it comes to addressing more specific issues the state is currently facing, 36% of respondents rated Newsom’s response to California wildfires as poor, 30% as good, 22% as fair, and 12% as excellent.

How would you rate the job Gov. Newsom has done to handle California wildfires – excellent, good, fair, or poor?

Excellent: 12%
Good: 30%
Fair: 22%
Poor: 36%

Earlier this month, Newsom asked people and businesses in California to voluntarily cut water use by 15% as the Western United States weathers a drought that is rapidly emptying reservoirs relied on for agriculture, drinking water, and fish habitat.  Newsom also added nine counties to an emergency drought proclamation that now covers 50 of the state’s 58 counties. 

According to the poll, 35% of respondents said Newsom’s response was poor, 29% voted good, 27% fair, and 9% said excellent. 

How would you rate the job Gov. Newsom has done to handle the current drought – excellent, good, fair, or poor?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 27%
Poor: 35%

At this time, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder is leading the race to replace Gov. Newsom if he is recalled by voters. 

A Sacramento County judge on Wednesday ruled California’s Secretary of State Shirley Weber must put Elder on the ballot as a candidate on the final certified list of candidates. 

Which candidate would you vote for to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom if he is recalled?
John Cox: 6%
Larry Elder: 16%
Kevin Faulconer: 6%
Caitlyn Jenner: 4%
Kevin Kiley: 4%
Kevin Paffrath: 2%
Undecided: 53%
Someone else: 8%

The Recall Effort 

Recall organizers gathered more than 2 million signatures to force the election and emphasized what they said were Newsom’s overreaching policies during the pandemic. 

In the recall, voters will receive a ballot with two questions: Should Newsom be recalled and who should replace him? Answers to the second question will only be counted if more than half vote yes on the first.

Last week, a judge ruled Newsom can’t put his Democratic Party affiliation on the ballot voters see when they decide whether to remove him, a judge ruled. 

Newsom’s campaign had missed a deadline to submit his affiliation to California Secretary of State Shirley Weber for the Sept. 14 recall election. 

It’s unclear if the lack of a party designation will have any practical impact. 

Last month, Newsom signed a law that again changes the recall rules, this time to speed up the election. 

The recall was fueled by frustration over Newsom’s coronavirus shutdown orders and anger after it was learned the governor attended a party with lobbyist friends at The French Laundry last fall when he was telling Californians to stay home. 

The election is set for Sept. 14, though ballots will be mailed to voters in August. 

Why exactly is there a recall drive against Newsom? The answer is simple and complicated: Californians grew angry over a difficult year. Whipsaw pandemic lockdowns, crushing job losses from business closures, shuttered schools and the disruption of daily life soured just about everybody. 

The complicated part: In a state with nearly 40 million people, there are many grievances, from California’s wallet-sapping taxes to a raging homelessness crisis. As governor, Newsom became a target for that resentment. 

For months, Newsom steered around questions about a possible recall election but in March launched an aggressive campaign strategy, fundraising, running ads attacking the recall, and doing national TV and cable interview 

Newsom, who was elected in a 2018 landslide, sees the recall as an attack on California’s progressive policies. 

The recall is backed by state and national Republicans, but organizers argue they have a broad-based coalition, including many independents and Democrats.

It’s not uncommon in California for residents to seek recalls but they rarely get on the ballot – and even fewer succeed. A sitting governor has been ousted just once in the state, when unpopular Democrat Gray Davis was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenneger.

The official list of who’s running in the recall election remains unsettled. The list of 41 candidates released over the weekend by the state lacked the panache of the more than 100 candidates who ran in California’s last recall of a governor in 2003. But it includes a range of candidates from the anonymous to the famous. The list includes 21 Republicans, eight Democrats, one Libertarian, nine Independents, and two Green Party members. 

The Inside California Politics/Emerson College poll was conducted July 19-20, 2021. The sample consisted of California registered voters, n=1,085, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.