Voters attitudes shift leftward holds steady in homestretch. Race for Governor remains stable with heavy advantage for Newsom as down ticket races tighten within the margin of error.
Both John Cox and Prop 6 appear to be headed for defeat.
In the eighth and final week of conducting our weekly California survey reveals voters attitudes are breaking sharply against the Republicans and a plurality of voters want the next Congress to serve as a check to Trump’s agenda.
Newsom expands his lead by a percentage point to 55% while Cox’s vote share at 41% remains unchanged from last week. Gavin is winning Independents by nearly a 2-1 margin at 61% to 36.9% and female voters break overwhelmingly toward Newsom as well at 59.8% to Cox’s 35.7%.
- Gavin Newsom: 55%
- John Cox: 41.6%
- Unsure: 3.4%
Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: This contest has stabilized and we are comfortable calling the race this week for Gavin Newsom. Even if Cox captured 100% of the remaining undecideds he still would be 5% shy of the 50% threshold. The reality is this race has been heavily favored toward Newsom since we began testing in early September. Newsom had all the dynamics working in his favor: name ID, sufficient campaign cash, partisan registration, no major mistakes and Trump’s upside down approvals.
Could Cox have ever won? Probably not given the dynamics at play in California and nationally. Cox would have needed a breakout moment and had Newsom implode from within, all which were unlikely given Newsom’s long career and multiple prior electoral tests. GOP donors have largely abandoned statewide Republican candidates which choked off Cox from raising a war chest to allow him to compete in the state’s expensive media markets. Assuming Cox was able to raise the necessary war chest, it still was unlikely that he’d prevail with the party registration drag and Trump’s numbers that have remained around 39%. Cox should pat himself on the back if he outperforms Trump’s approval numbers for having survived a statewide contest but remember that Newsom never engaged in a full throated negative campaign simply because he realized he didn’t need to. The big question is what is next for Cox? Congress? Supervisor? An appointment in the Trump administration? Will Newsom move to the middle once elected or further to the left to position for 2020?
Bottom line: There is not enough runway left for any candidate to change the outcome of this race. Don’t stay up late waiting for this contest on Tuesday night.
Lt. Gov. Race
Hernandez regains the advantage this week but the race remains within the margin of error as we enter the homestretch. He is winning with Democrats with 43% to Eleni’s 36.8% while she leads with Independent with 46% to Hernandez’s 29.5%. Republicans remain nearly evenly split at 20% for Eleni and 22% to Hernandez. 57% of Republicans remain unsure.
- Eleni Kounalakis: 33.6%
- Ed Hernandez: 34.1%
- Unsure: 32.3%
Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: This is one tight race as it appears that voters don’t have a clear candidate preference as we enter the home stretch. In this Dem on Dem fight there is 32.3% of the vote undecided. While many assumed Hernandez was going to be outgunned by Eleni’s war chest advantage that isn’t the case just yet. Both candidate remain tied within the margin or error.
Several questions remain: where will the unsures break in the home stretch and will the break disproportionately in one direction? Will Republicans sit this D on D contest out? If they end up voting they will decide who wins this contest.
If GOPers sit out this contest then the NPP and Independents will decide who the next Lt. Gov is. Our reading of the tea leaves shows Eleni winning NPP by 17%. If that proportion holds with the remaining 24% undecided Independent bloc, that should be enough to allow Eleni to prevail on Election Day. We’ll be watching this race close on Tuesday night as right now it’s simply too close to call.
Insurance Commissioner Race
We have resumed tracking this race showing Poizner’s lead steadily decreasing as voters begin to dial in to this low information contest. Poizner maintains a significant portion of Democratic support at 27.9% to Lara’s 62.2%.
- Steve Poizner: 45.5%
- Ricardo Lara 43.7%
- Unsure: 10.7%
Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: If Lara continues to consolidate Democratic support he might be able to defeat Poizner. This contest has held relatively steady until this week where it dramatically tightened. The most significant move we have seen is that the Democratic partisans are coming home to Lara and leaving Poizner the No Party Preference candidate. In our opinion Poizner started on television too late allowing Lara’s growth to mount. The Poizner team also opted to dial it in with their TV creative simply reinforcing his name ID and using canned stock stills with a slight blur. It almost appeared that Poizner was in a office building lobby at some sort of fundraiser or gathering.
Had Poizner taken his case directly to the voters as to why the next Insurance Commissioner needs to be a fierce independent fighter who will do what’s right, fight big insurance companies and is proud to be backed by nearly every newspaper in the state we suspect Poizner would be capturing a higher proportion of partisans. The candidate needed to look into the camera and make the case. This race is coming down the wire and we’ll be watching it closely on Election Night.
Prop 6 - Gas Tax Repeal
The Yes/Repeal side lost ground while the No side gained 2 points. The No side is leading with Democratic and Independent voting blocs at 52.5% and 49.7%. The Yes side is only capturing 57.9% of Republicans with 28.6% voting No.
- Yes: 35.2%
- No: 44%
- Unsure: 20.8%
- Margin of Error: +/- 3%
Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: This week the trend lines have maintained to the advantage of the No side. The Gas Tax Repeal effort appears to be headed to defeat on Tuesday with likely too steep of a hill to climb. Breaking down the undecideds one will notice that the largest blocs are with Democrats and Independent voters. Digging deeper it is clear the proportional splits in those subgroups heavily favors the No side. Running a simplistic exercise of splitting the remaining Unsures in half which is likely overly generous to the Yes side puts Yes at 45.6% and No at 54.4% with a comfortable margin of victory.
Could the Yes side have prevailed? The simple answer is Yes, but it required substantial levels of spend on paid media to educate the voters as to what the ballot measure is truly offering voters in terms of a gas tax repeal. We had tested the simple language of a gas tax 8 weeks ago and that won overwhelming support out of the gate. Unfortunately for the Yes side this is not the actual language voters will see when they walk into the booth.
The left leaning trend line has held since last week providing a heavy advantage Democratic environment as we go into the home stretch.
- Republican Candidate: 35.8%
- Democratic Candidate: 49.3%
- Unsure: 9.6%
- Would not vote: 5.1%
Figure 5: Generic Ballot
Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: We have been watching this number closely for 8 weeks now. Up until last week it held relatively steady with a clear Democratic advantage. Last week our survey revealed a heavy Democratic advantage signaling a potential wave in California. With this kind of spread it does not bode well for Republican candidates in wobbler Congressional races in places like Orange County.
Californians are leaning significantly against impeaching the President this week.
- Yes: 36.2%
- No: 47.1%
Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: Despite a generally bad week for Republicans, voters have shied away from impeaching President Trump at it’s lowest point over the last 8 weeks. We find it ironic because if the Democrats take control of the House there will be significant likelihood that they move immediately toward impeachment.
Trump has hit an all time low in his approvals since we started tracking 8 weeks ago.
- Approve: 37.4%
- Disapprove: 51.2%
- Unsure: 11%
Figure 7: Trump Approval
Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: These kinds of low approval numbers will pull down any federal candidate running in California and will effect some of these wobbler races.
Checks and Balances
47% of California’s voters want their congressional member to be a check against President Trump and consider this to be a priority while 33% want their vote to go to a member who supports Trump’s agenda. Only 20% of voters say their vote for Congress is not based on Trump. 52% of Independent voters want their congressional candidate of choice to be a check against Trump.
- Support Trump Agenda: 33%
- Check Against Trump: 47%
- Not Trump Based: 20%
Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: This question lets us dig a bit deeper as to both the political winds in the state but more importantly the uphill battle current Republican members of Congress are facing who have cast votes in line with POTUS and his agenda. For instance, Mimi Walters is being attacked for voting with Trump 99% of the time. We can see from our survey combining the generic ballot disadvantage, Trumps low approvals, voters desire to have Congress be a check again POTUS this attack can carry serious weight.
Methodology Statement: Between 10/25-10/27, 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.
Photo: Getty Images