Governor Gavin Newsom is California’s most popular prominent politician, but that could be tested by voters’ concerns about his ability to address the estimated $22.5 billion state deficit, according to a new UC poll Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.
The findings provide a “warning signal” to Newsom about the fragility of his political position among California voters, said Mark DiCamillo, the poll’s director.
“It’s true for any governor: When you start cutting the budget, that’s usually a time when voters become more critical of you,” said DiCamillo, who has researched public opinion in the state for four decades. “Now we are not there yet. But that’s why we say there are clouds on the horizon.”
The survey found that 54% of registered California voters viewed Newsom favorably and 41% viewed him unfavorably. Voters gave Newsom very similar numbers on his overall job performance.
The relatively good numbers fuel a comeback for the governor from a late-2020 low, after he was spotted dining at the French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley at a time when he and his administration told Californians public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 crisis. 19 pandemic. His standing with the electorate has improved since opponents made a failed attempt to recall him.
But with a budget crisis looming, 57% of voters lacked confidence in the ability of the Democratic governor and Democratic-led legislature to address the deficit without making major cuts, compared to 37% who were confident they could find a way to cope. the deficit without reducing government services.
Budget concerns varied widely by party, with more than 9 in 10 Republicans not confident at all and 60% of Democrats expressing confidence. Nearly two-thirds of non-party voters reported a lack of confidence.
In January, Newsom proposed billions in cuts to climate programs in his budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year.
The governor and lawmakers had allocated $54 billion to climate programs over five years in the 2021 and 2022 budgets. His plan for January suggested cutting that investment to $48 billion, hoping that federal funding and future increases in budget revenues could offset the cuts.
Just over $1 billion of those reductions would come from zero-emission vehicle programs. The money was intended to support Newsom and California’s goal to phase out sales of new gasoline cars and trucks in the state by 2035.
According to the poll, 62% of registered voters supported Newsom’s call to cut funding for the state’s climate change efforts to balance the budget, while 26% opposed the proposal. Republicans were more in favor of the proposed cut (70%) than Democrats (59%).
DiCamillo said the response doesn’t mean voters are against the climate goal, but that they are thinking about more immediate needs.
“It’s not too surprising that they’re not so against it because it won’t immediately affect their wallets, their households or their circumstances,” DiCamillo said.
The Berkeley poll asked voters for their views not only of Newsom, but of the state’s other most prominent political figures. The findings were largely split along party lines, with Democrats giving politicians in their own party much higher marks than Republican voters.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco trailed Newsom in the ratings, with 48% having a favorable opinion, compared to 45% rating her unfavorably. Perspectives on Vice President Kamala Harris were evenly split at 46%.
While 41% of those polled gave Senator Alex Padilla positive marks, only 23% rated him unfavorably. That earned Padilla the distinction of being the least hated high-profile politician in California. He was also the most unknown.
More than a third of voters had no opinion on Padilla, who was appointed by Newsom to succeed Harris before winning the Senate job outright in the 2022 election.
Senator Dianne Feinstein’s preference was particularly low. Of those surveyed, 37% gave her high marks, while 43% had an unfavorable opinion of her. At age 89, California’s longest-serving senator announced in February that she will not be seeking re-election next year.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield was at the bottom of the list, with less than 3 in 10 voters giving a favorable opinion and a majority of voters viewing him unfavorably. Newsom, Pelosoi and Harris all received more support from the Democrats than McCarthy received from the Republicans.
The poll also asked California voters to rate Pelosi’s performance as a speaker and provide their expectations for how McCarthy will fare in the role.
Overall, 45% gave Pelosi excellent or good grades in her former role as a speaker. Of Democrats, 71% gave that assessment. Voters weren’t too nice to McCarthy, with only 21% overall saying they thought he would do an excellent job or well, a view shared by only 49% of Republicans.
The Berkeley IGS survey surveyed 7,512 California-registered voters online in English and Spanish from Feb. 14 to Feb. 20. Because the survey results are weighted to match census and voter registration benchmarks, accurate estimates of the margin of error are difficult; however, the results are estimated to have a margin of error of 2 percentage points in either direction for the entire sample.