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What do the California recall election polls say?

Polls are closing on September 14 and at this stage Governor Newsom is polled to be ahead, but there is still lots of time and many votes to be counted.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during a campaign rally against his recall election with US Vice President Kamala Harris at the IBEW-NECA Joint Apprenticeship Training Center in San Leandro, California.
Saul LoebAFP

The deadline for the gubernatorial recall election is less than five days away, with all 47 candidates vying to get the votes needed. For the 46 challengers, it is a head-to-head between each other to replace the incumbent Gavin Newsom. However, all their hopes will be dashed if Newsom gets enough votes to prevent being recalled.

At this early stage, Newsom's chances are looking pretty good.

What do the polls say?

Polling website FiveThirtyEight has been keeping track of aggregate support for each candidate, as well as Newsom's chances of being voted out. Even if voters choose to keep Newsom, they are still able to vote for his replacement, something obviously being discouraged by the Democrat leadership.

As of September 9, as an aggregate of the surveys provided, Newsom will stay as governor with 54.7% of the vote, his highest chance of staying in to date. This gives him a 13% lead over being removed, a huge margin for his opponents to make up before September 14. His lowest was the week of August 4 to 11, coinciding with news about vaccines mandates in the state.

The bounce in support comes at the same time as the distribution of the second Golden State Stimulus at the end of August. Every two weeks, a payment of between $500 and $1,100 will arrive in eligible Californians bank accounts. In total, it will reach 9 million people. Financial support like this is unlikely to be ignored by the electorate.

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Who else is in the running?

If this margin was to be overturned, the front-runner would be Republican radio host Larry Elder. FiveSevenEight puts him 20 points ahead of his nearest rival, the Democrat Kevin Paffrath. If Newsom is voted out, candidates only need a simple majority to win. In this case, Elder would be the clear winner. Since mid-July, every poll has Elder winning except twice, with Paffrath winning both other times by a 1% margin.

Why is the vote significant?

California is the most populous State in the US, having nearly 40 million residents. If it was an independent country in 2020, it would have the fifth-biggest economy in the world. A defeat for Newsom would be disastrous for the party, considering the huge Democrat following in the state. It would be the first defeat in the build-up to the midterm elections and would control the narrative about a foreboding Democrat defeat.

If Elder were to win, he has already said that the potential replacement for Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, who at 88-years-old may not be able to remain in her role for the remaining three years of her term, would be a Republican. This would destroy the Democrat control of congress and make passing any legislation near impossible for Biden.

But as things stand, victory for Newsom seems very likely.