A new poll shows California voters disapprove of Newsom’s performance as governor

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in a warehouse at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California, Friday 3/17/23.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a warehouse at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California, Friday, March 17, 2023. Newsom plans to transform the prison, a San Francisco Bay Area facility known for holding the highest number of prisoners at death row in the country. Newsom said his goal is to make the prison a place where inmates can be rehabilitated and receive job training before returning to society. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
(Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

A new poll shows California voters disapprove of Newsom’s performance as governor

Mental health,California politics,homepage news,COVID-19 pandemic,2024 elections

Taryn Luna

November 7, 2023

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s standing among California voters has hit an all-time low, with 49% disapproving of his performance as governor, according to a new poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

Research shows


Newsom’s popularity has fallen this year as he continues to boost his national profile and campaign outside the Golden State

to support and attack President Biden

Republican governors and their conservative political agendas


Newsom’s approval rating was 44% at the end of October


at 11



dropped from February, when 55% of voters approved of his performance. His disapproval among California voters


Up 10 percentage points compared to earlier this year.

“He’s kind of taking on a new personality,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley poll and a longtime pollster in California. “He’s no longer just the governor of California. He’s a spokesperson for the national party and essentially voters are being asked to respond to that.”

Despite the negative perception of his leadership, the Berkeley poll shows


offered an important advantage for the Democratic governor: voters



support Proposition 1, his $6.4 billion mental health bond on the March 2024 ballot.

Only 15% of voters said they had heard of the proposal, which is estimated to provide enough funding for 10,000 new treatment beds across the state. After reading a description of the measure, 60% of likely voters supported the idea, 17% opposed and 23% remained undecided. The survey questions did not mention that Newsom supports Proposition 1.

DiCamillo noted that initial support for the ballot measure was broad-based, although Republicans and conservatives were more divided.

Newsom’s decline in popularity spans nearly every major voter category and includes significant declines among his Democratic base and voters unaffiliated with either party, DiCamillo noted.

Although Newsom still enjoys 66% support from voters in his own party, his support among Democrats fell 16 points from February. Now a quarter of Democrats disapprove of his performance compared to


12% earlier this year. The poll found there were similar declines among moderate and liberal voters.

The governor’s support from voters with no party preference fell from 49% to 37% over the same period.

Nathan Click, a spokesman for the governor, noted

a separate poll conducted in late August and early September by the Public Policy Institute of California


found that Newsom’s support was much higher: 56% among likely voters overall.

That PPIC poll was based on the opinions of likely voters. The Berkeley poll’s findings were among registered voters, a broader group of Californians. Newsom’s approval among likely voters surveyed in the Berkeley poll was 48%, slightly higher than among registered voters.

Although Newsom insists he is not interested in running for president, the governor has raised money for Biden and Democratic candidates in other states and increased his role in the culture wars with conservatives. Newsom has also been inserted


himself into the presidential contest by initiating a debate with the governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis, a Republican

nominated contender

for the presidency, in Georgia at the end of the month.

DiCamillo said it is not unusual for governors to experience a dip in popularity when campaigning out of state.

Former Governor Jerry Brown received low marks as governor in April 1980, the same month he ended his second presidential campaign. At the time, 38% of Californians approved of his performance and 61% disapproved.

Voters were mixed on Newsom taking an increasingly prominent role in national Democratic politics, with 45% approving and 43% disapproving. Half of respondents approved of their recent trip to China, while 39% disapproved.

When asked about his nomination of U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler to fill the seat of the late Dianne Feinstein


Congress, 37% approved, 30% disapproved, while 1 in 3 voters expressed no opinion.

“Fox News is going to feast on these numbers,” Rob Stutzman, a Republican political consultant, said of Newsom’s ratings.

Stutzman attributed some of Newsom’s decline to a natural “sugar high” from a largely positive public perception since his re-election last year.

Newsom’s popularity as governor peaked in September 2020

, shortly after his initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which endeared him so much to California voters that his approval rating was among the highest of any governor in the past 50 years at the same point in their first term. Voters

Newsom’s opinion plummeted months later

, however, following a massive outbreak of a new variant and growing voter dissatisfaction with state restrictions. Newsom at also faced intense criticism in November 2020

contrary to the spirit of its own public health guidelines

by dining out with a group of friends at the chic French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley.

Both Stutzman and DiCamillo said

economic concerns in California and across the country could explain some of the problems


drop. Californians are also frustrated with the state of California, especially the issues of crime and homelessness, Stutzman said.

The recent PPIC survey found that 55% of California adults think the state is heading in the wrong direction. Jobs, the economy, inflation and homelessness were cited as top concerns among residents.

“I think the real wake-up call is how dramatically Democratic voters seem to be shifting under him,” Stutzman said. ‘I’m not surprised his grades are so low. I’m surprised his grades are so low. He’s clearly upside down.’

The new polls come after the governor had a rift with his party’s progressive wing over his solutions to California’s homelessness and mental health crisis. He raged on the far left when a provision was added


on Proposition 1 that would allow funding to support mental health beds in locked facilities, which has become controversial in the healthcare industry. His CARE Court plan approved in 2022 could force Californians struggling with mental illness and drug addiction into treatment as an alternative to prison, similarly clashing with civil liberties organizations.

He also faced environmentalists and some Democrats in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region earlier this year over his failed plan to streamline construction of a controversial $16 billion tunnel to transport water south.

Newsom will leave office in 2026 and will not have to worry about re-election in California.

But he still has about a year before he enters the lame-duck phase of his governorship, in which a politician’s power diminishes as his term ends. As his governorship begins to decline, the loss of public support will impact his ability to get business done with the Legislature.

“It hurts his political capital, he’s not interested in hastening his lame duck status and he probably has an entire budget year ahead of him, which won’t help his approval ratings,” Stutzman said.

After closing a nearly $32 billion deficit in the state spending plan approved in June, Gov. Newsom expects California will still face an additional shortfall of at least $14.3 billion next year.

The Berkeley IGS poll surveyed 6,342 California registered voters, including a weighted subsample of 4,506 likely to participate in the March primary. The survey was conducted online in English and Spanish on October 1. 24-30. The results are weighted to match census and voter registration benchmarks, so margin of error estimates may be inaccurate; however, the results for the full sample have an estimated margin of error of 2 percentage points in either direction. The estimated margin of error for the likely voter subsample is 2.5 points.


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