Lt. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Dianne Feinstein look like winners in a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, while the ballot’s two highest-profile measures look like losers.
There was never much uncertainty about how Californians would vote this year, and with less than a fortnight remaining before election day, only a few congressional seats are still too close to call.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom holds an 11 percentage point lead over his Republican rival, John Cox, among likely voters in the poll and is expected to easily become Gov. Jerry Brown’s successor. In a state as blue as California, the June primary’s elimination of a fellow Democrat, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, erased any uncertainty about Newsom’s chances.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein enjoys an even stronger 16 point lead over her challenger, fellow Democrat Kevin de León, whose laid-back demeanor in their one-and-only debate last week, after weeks of aggressive campaigning, implied that he had mentally conceded.
Despite de León’s official endorsement by the state Democratic Party, Feinstein enjoys a 3-to-1 advantage among Democratic voters in the PPIC poll—an indication that the party’s dominant “Berniecrat” activists are at odds with rank-and-file Democratic voters.
They—and de León—had been sharply critical of Feinstein’s relative centrism during her more than a quarter-century in the Senate, and suggested that she had been in office too long and was out-of-touch. But that never jelled with voters.
The PPIC poll also bolstered earlier indications that the two highest-profile measures on the statewide ballot are headed nowhere.
Proposition 6, which would repeal a $5-plus billion package of gas taxes and automotive fees enacted by the Legislature and Gov. Brown last year, garnered only 41 percent support in the new poll.
The Republican Party and anti-tax groups placed it on the ballot and GOP leaders openly hoped that it would spark a big turnout of their voters which, in turn, would help save several embattled congressional seats. However, the PPIC poll found that scarcely half of Republicans support the measure. That may reflect a rather slanted ballot title written by Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office, reinforced by a lavishly financed opposition campaign.
The ballot designation describes the measure not as a tax repeal, but as a reduction of expenditures for transportation. When PPIC characterized it as a repeal in a previous poll, a majority of voters were supportive.
If Proposition 6 is the big issue for California’s right-wingers, Proposition 10 is the top cause of the state’s left-wingers.
It also proposes to repeal a state law, in this case the decades-old Costa-Hawkins Act that imposes limits on local rent control ordinances. But, as with Proposition 6, voters are not buying proponents’ argument—in this case, that more rent control is needed to help Californians with skyrocketing housing costs.
PPIC’s poll found that 60 percent of likely voters are opposed to the measure and the opposition has been growing since its last survey. Landlord groups have campaigned vigorously and expensively against Proposition 10, and its prospects are not helped by the fact that the vast majority of voters are homeowners, not renters.
The only major uncertainty about the Nov. 6 election is how many Republican-held congressional seats Democrats will overturn. At least a half-dozen are in play and Democrats are virtually certain to gain at least two as they seek to capitalize on President Donald Trump’s unpopularity to regain control of the House.
The PPIC poll found that generically, 55 percent of California’s likely voters favor Democratic congressional candidates while 37 percent prefer Republicans, but that doesn’t tell us much about those swing district races.