SACRAMENTO (INSIDE CALIFORNIA POLITICS): An exclusive Inside California Politics / Emerson College exit poll released Tuesday found nearly half of California likely voters have already decided whether or not they think Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled.

When did you finally decide whom to support in today’s election?
Before that: 44%
In the last month: 24%
In the last few days: 15%
Just today: 4%

The same percentage of likely voters also said Gov. Newsom’s ability to govern was the quality that mattered the most in deciding whom to support in Tuesday’s recall election.

Which one of these four qualities mattered most in deciding whom to support today?
Gov. Newsom’s ability to govern: 44%
Gov. Newsom’s inability to govern: 35%
The replacement candidates ability to govern: 12%
The replacement candidates inability to govern: 9%

The exit poll also found COVID-19 as the most important issue in determining votes, followed closely by something else at 17%, homelessness at 16%, and education at 14%.

Which of the following issues is most important in determining your vote?
COVID-19: 22%
Something else: 17%
Homelessness: 16%
Education: 14%
Jobs: 10%
Housing costs: 9%
Healthcare: 9%
Environment: 4%

An Inside California Politics poll conducted in July had found housing costs and homelessness as the top concerns for California residents, followed by COVID-19.

Recall effort

With Gov. Gavin Newsom’s fate at stake, Californians on Tuesday cast the last of the ballots that will decide whether he continues to lead them or if the nation’s most populous state veers in a more conservative direction amid anger over his actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newsom, a Democrat who is leading in polls, is only the fourth governor in U.S. history and the second in California to face a recall. He was elected in a landslide less than three years ago.

“I’m feeling good, as long as we can get out that vote,” Newsom said after greeting volunteers in San Francisco hours before the polls closed.

A recall election has a less predictable dynamic than a regular election, he said.

“They designed this to catch us while we’re sleeping,” Newsom said. “But I think you’ve seen in the early voting Democrats have been coming out strong, and I’m just humbled by that.”

The leading Republican candidate is conservative talk show host Larry Elder, who is seeking to become California’s first Black governor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.