Gov. Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom attends the opening of the country’s first federal and state operated community vaccination site in Los Angeles on Feb. 16. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A new poll of California voters released Tuesday suggests low Democratic turnout could doom Gov. Gavin Newsom and finds talk show host Larry Elder leads a divided Republican field.

The poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found 36% of the Golden State’s registered voters would vote “yes” to recall the Governor, while 51% would vote “no” to keep him.

However, among a smaller group of voters who told pollsters they were actually likely to vote, the percentage voting “yes” rose to 47% while those voting “no” dipped to just 50%.

“If current levels of interest and voting intentions persist, turnout is likely to be far higher among Republicans than Democrats,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley poll. “And, since nearly all Republicans favor Newsom’s ouster, a larger proportion of likely voters are voting ‘yes’.”

The poll found that Elder currently leads the list of 46 mostly Republican candidates seeking to succeed Newsom. He was the choice of 18%, followed by Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer at 10% each.

“Voters’ greater consideration of Elder as Newsom’s replacement is derived primarily from the fact that he has a very strong following among the Republicans most likely to be voting in the recall,” said DiCamillo.

But even a small lead could be crucial under the recall election rules. If a majority vote “yes” to remove Newsom, then the leading candidate from the replacement list will become governor — even if that candidate receives less than 50% of the vote.

DiCamillo said voter turnout may be limited because “the two-question ballot contrasts with other statewide elections in which voters are drawn to the polls by numerous state and local candidate and proposition races.”

However, unlike most previous elections, all California voters will receive a ballot by mail in mid August, and the poll did not address how this might affect turnout.

The poll was administered online in English and Spanish July 18 to 24 among a random sample of 5,795 registered voters across California. Funding for the poll was provided in part by the Los Angeles Times.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.