Newsom’s popularity skyrocketed early in the pandemic, with 63% of likely voters telling the Public Policy Institute of California that they approved of his job performance in May. Though his ratings have since dropped, Newsom remains far more popular than Gray Davis was at the same point in his recall campaign.
What Newsom has to worry about are voters like Jennifer Harris, who lives in Encinitas. She said she registered as a Democrat at age 18 and voted for Newsom in 2018, the same year she ran for school board as an endorsed Democrat. She supported Newsom’s actions early in the pandemic, including his first stay-at-home order. But as the pandemic dragged on, she saw little logic in the government’s rules to ban playgrounds and outdoor dining. And she grew unbearably frustrated with the closure of her kids’ public school — while many private schools (including the one Newsom’s children attend) remained open.
“The policy has not necessarily been good for the people that the Democratic Party says it’s supposed to be representing, which is the working class and the middle class,” Harris said. In the fall, she changed her voter registration to nonpartisan and signed the petition to recall Newsom.
College-educated suburban white women like Harris will be a critical constituency if the recall gets on the ballot, said Mike Madrid, a GOP political consultant with expertise in voter behavior. It’s a group that has traditionally supported Newsom, especially in coastal counties. “If they lose that base,” he said, “then it becomes a race.”
Polls show that Newsom is losing support among women and people who have kids at home. In May of 2020, PPIC found that 70% of female likely voters and 58% of likely voters with children in their household approved of Newsom’s job performance. By January that dropped to 57% of female likely voters and 49% of those living with kids.