California Statewide Survey - Week 3

The race for Governor shifts towards Newsom and voters’ attitudes toward Kavanaugh have not changed despite harassment allegations. California statewide races are beginning to take shape as we round out the month. 

The third week of conducting our weekly California survey reveals steady Trump approval and the generic ballot showing a slight shift toward Democrats. Most races are beginning to tighten, and we are now asking undecided voters for which candidate they lean towards.

Governor’s Race 

The race for Governor shows a heavier advantage for Gavin Newson this week, with an 8-point swing in his direction when you include leaners. With leaners, Newsom now surpasses the 50% threshold.

Gavin Newsom: 53%

John Cox: 42%

Unsure: 5%

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: John Cox’s honeymoon period is over. Last week’s results showed the race for Governor tightening likely due to the fact that Cox had the paid airwaves all to himself for several weeks allowing voters to hear his message without an alternative rebuttal. Newsom began his paid television advertising effort last Thursday and it is clearly making an impact statewide. As voters begin to dial into this race Newsom takes a decided lead cracking the critical 50% threshold. At this point in the race Newsom has resources to mount a significant statewide advertising campaign while Cox is significantly underfunded. Without resources at near parity we expect Newsom’s advantage to hold. Cox’s advantage with No Party Preference voters has been erased this week with Newsom taking the lead with that critical group. 

Cox is managing to eclipse President Trump’s approval rating of 38.3%. 

With such a small Unsure percentage up for grabs Cox is running into a math problem. Winning with the undecided voters is not enough to overcome his ballot deficit. He must claw Newsom back while building a robust positive profile for himself. 

Lt. Gov. Race 

This race remains an even dead heat with both candidates tied at 27%. A large percentage remains undecided.

Eleni Kounalakis: 27%

Ed Hernandez: 27%

Unsure: 46%

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: This race remains wide open and likely will remain this way until either candidate spends significant resources on a paid media campaign. Voters are starved for information in these kinds of contests especially since both candidates are from the same party. The candidate who builds a robust profile for him or herself will likely win in November. 

Insurance Commissioner Race 

The race for Insurance Commissioner is beginning to tighten while the trend lines continue to hold with a consistent ballot advantage for ‘No Party Preference’ candidate Steve Poizner. 15% of the electorate remains undecided, even after being asked who they would lean towards.

Steve Poizner: 45%

Ricardo Lara: 40%

Unsure: 15%

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: The race is clearly tightening with Poizer positioned to prevail if his campaign spends at sufficient levels on a paid media campaign. The candidate’s work is clear: Poizner must capture a grater percentage of Republicans who are currently either undecided or with Democrat Lara. Poizner needs to run a communication track to shore up support with GOP voters while avoiding potential backlash by driving Democrats who are currently with Poizner (17.8%) over to Lara. Poizner must build a profile for himself as a straight-talking, non-partisan Insurance Commissioner who does what’s right without partisan influence while running a GOP persuasion track winking and nodding at GOP that he’s in line with their priorities and concerns. 

Lara’s path is straight forward: bring the partisans home. He is currently capturing only 55% of Democrats. Lara needs to establish himself as the clear choice for Democrat voters via paid media. 

Prop 6 - Gas Tax Repeal 

The repeal side maintains its significant lead over ‘No’ on Proposition 6. No Party Preference voters are breaking decidedly in favor of repeal with 45.5% “Yes” to 33.45 “No.”

Yes: 47%

No: 28%

Unsure: 25%

Figure 1: Proposition 6 Ballot Test 

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: Numbers in favor of repeal have held steady since we began testing three weeks ago. This measure is positioned to pass unless the No side dramatically spends on paid advertising and is able to reframe voters’ away from a tax repeal and toward an infrastructure protection effort. 

Trump Impeachment 

Californians are evenly split this week on whether or not President Trump should be impeached.

Figure 2: Trump Impeachment 

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: This number appears to follow the news cycle. We are watching this closely along with the generic ballot question and Trump’s approval numbers to give us a better indication of how heavy the partisan winds are going into Election Day. 

Presidential Conduct and the Economy 

We find that 53% of California voters find it more important that the President be a good moral role model than for the economy to be in great shape. 78% of Democrats believe the President should be a good role model vs. 86% of Republicans who believed it’s more important for the economy to be in great shape. 54% of Independents believe it is more important for the President to be a good role model.

Figure 3: Presidential Conduct and the Economy 

Question: In terms of the presidency and the American economy, which do you find more important: for the president to be a good role model and behave professionally, or for the economy to be in great shape?

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: The results illuminate both the partisan divide in priorities and why perhaps President Trump’s approval numbers are not stronger in the Golden State – a majority of voters want to perceive POTUS as a role model and are not as concerned about the economy currently. Traditionally, with consumer confidence at an all time high and the economy being so strong you would expect POTUS approval to be north of 50%. 

There is a stark gender gap on this question with women favoring being a good role model by 10% whereas men are evenly split.

Kavanaugh Confirmation

We asked this question in week one and now (three weeks later) finding both support and opposition growing with equal magnitude. Less respondents are not sure how they feel about his potential confirmation.

September 7-9: 38% Support to 45% Oppose

September 21-23: 41% Support to 47% Oppose

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: The spread between support and opposition has remained remarkably steady for the last three weeks despite accusations against Judge Kavanaugh mounting. By and large public opinion seems fixed on this issue. There is however a clear gender gap with women decidedly against the Judge and men overall siding in support of confirmation.

Methodology Statement: Between 9/21-9/23, we surveyed 1,068 modeled likely midterm voters in California via IVR, landline only. Likely voters were defined as registered voters having voted in the 2010 and 2014 midterm general elections, or in the 2016 primaries, plus the 15% additional most likely to turnout in the 2018 general based on in-house turnout score modeling. Margin of error varies by question and segment but is generally +/- 3.5% for topline results. Sample was weighted by age, gender, party, and DMA. Results were then re-balanced after processing results based on these same cohorts to account for differential response rates.

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