Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his stimulus plan on Monday. Photo courtesy of the governor’s office

The final survey before the recall election by the respected Public Policy Institute of California shows Gov. Gavin Newsom handily beating the recall.

Among likely voters in the Sept. 14 election, 39% would vote “yes” to remove Newsom, while 58% would vote “no,” according to the results released Wednesday.

Of those surveyed who plan to vote “yes,” less than half have made up their minds as to who should succeed Newsom. Talk show host Larry Elder is the front-runner at 26%, followed by former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer at 5% and Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox at 3%.

“The share of likely voters who would vote yes to remove Governor Newsom continues to fall short of a majority, and about half are either undecided or would not vote for one of the replacement candidates,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the independent research institute based in San Francisco.

The coronavirus pandemic was listed by those polled as the major issue facing California, and 58% of likely voters approved of Newsom’s handling of the public health crisis. An overwhelming majority also said California has done an “excellent” (28%) or “good” (50%) job of distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

“COVID-19 tops the list when Californians are asked to name the most important issue facing the people of the state, and majorities approve of the way that Governor Newsom and President Biden are handling their top issue,” Baldassare said.

Though the poll shows Newsom with a comfortable margin, Baldassare cautioned that a political upset remains possible if there is low turnout, noting that Republican voters say they’re more enthusiastic about voting than Democrats at a margin of 54% to 40%.

Under the unique rules of the recall election, if a majority vote “no” to recall Newsom, then whichever candidate on the ballot gets the most votes will become Governor — even if that candidate receives far less than a majority. The poll suggests that candidate would be Elder.

The poll surveyed 1,706 California adults from Aug. 20 to 29. It has a sampling error of 4.5 percentage points for the 1,080 likely voters.

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Chris Jennewein

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