A new California midterm poll shows public opinion holding steady or coming in pretty much as you’d expect—but dig deeper into every expected result and you’ll find something unexpected.
In electoral politics, one month can make a world of difference, or next to none.
New results show public opinion holding steady or coming in pretty much where you would expect—with a few surprises.
1. The governor’s race: Newsom still up, but many still undecided
- Expected: Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is maintaining his lead over Republican businessman John Cox. This time the gap is 11 percentage points. That’s not meaningfully different from last month.
- Unexpected: Newsom is getting just under 50 percent. That still makes for a commanding lead, but it’s not the overwhelming vote of confidence he might have expected against such a low-profile opponent. And according to the poll, 10 percent of voters are still undecided.
2. The U.S. Senate race: De León getting trounced…except among Republicans
- Expected: Veteran U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is clobbering state Sen. Kevin de León—43 percent to 27 percent. Apparently the debate—er, “conversation“—the two had last week didn’t shake things up. Meanwhile, 23 percent (or half of the Republican respondents) said they don’t plan on voting for either one in a race in which both of the top-two finalists are Democrats.
- Unexpected: But de León is leading with one group: Republicans. Given that he authored the California “sanctuary state” bill, supports “Medicare for All” and vows to resist President Trump at every turn, that isn’t the most obvious choice. Maybe these voters are just that mad at California’s senior senator over how she handled the Justice Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Or maybe they just need to do a little more research.
3. Propositions: The gas tax repeal is down. And the proposition to allow expanded rent control is way, way down.
- Expected: Just like last September, things are looking bad for both Proposition 6 (which would repeal a recent increase in the state gas tax) and Prop. 10 (which would allow cities to expand rent control). The “No on 6” campaign is leading, 48 to 41 percent. But with 11 percent of respondents undecided, the fate of the gas tax is still up in the air.
- Unexpected: As for Prop. 10—not so much. Only 25 percent of respondents said they support repealing the state’s ban on rent control, while 60 percent said they plan to vote “no.” That 35-point gap is almost three times what it was last month—before many voters began to really check in. “The more (voters) are hearing about this, the more inclined they are to vote no,” said Mark Baldassare, the institute’s president. Still, he says he was shocked by the magnitude of the shift. “It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘let’s make sure these numbers are right, folks.’ ”
4. Congressional races: Competitive races are tight and Democrats are pumped up
- Expected: Though voters overwhelmingly favor Democratic candidates across the state, in California’s 11 most competitive congressional districts, 49 percent of respondents said they favor the Republican compared to 44 percent for the Democrat. At first blush, that’s good news for the GOP—and it’s a slight improvement over last month’s poll—but remember that most of these districts are currently represented by a Republican and are traditional conservative strongholds.
- Unexpected: Adding up the respondents who said that they were either “very” or “extremely’ enthusiastic to vote, two-thirds of Democrats say they can’t wait to cast their ballot. That’s compared to only 45 percent of Republicans. We won’t know until after election day if and how that enthusiasm gap relates to turnout.
5. Healthcare: Californians really like Obamacare, but not single payer
- Expected: By a fairly slim margin, Californians like Obamacare, with 53 percent in favor. That’s the highest approval rating the nearly decade-old healthcare law has received since the institute began asking about it. That’s not surprising given the repeated attempts by Republicans in Washington D.C. to repeal the law. You don’t know what you got ’till Congress tries to take it way.
- Unexpected: “Medicare for All” might be a popular talking point in the state’s bluer districts, but apparently it doesn’t sell well to most Californians. Only 1-in-4 respondents said that they would favor a single-payer health system in which the federal government is the sole insurance provider. That’s a significant drop since last spring when another PPIC poll found that over half of likely voters would support such a system at the state level (support dropped to 43 percent when asked if they would also be willing to pay higher taxes). It’s also an awkward result for Newsom, who promised to push for a single-payer system if elected.
6. Gun control: Democrats support gun control—and so do Republicans
- Expected: California has some of the toughest gun laws in the county, and most likely voters are just fine with that. Across the state, 22 percent of respondents said they like the state’s gun rules as they are and 59 percent said they’d like them to be tougher. That’s a total of 81 percent.
- Unexpected: Two-thirds of Republicans agree.
7. Kavanaugh: Playing out pretty much the way you thought it would
- Expected: The majority of those surveyed (56 percent) think that Justice Brett Kavanaugh, facing allegations of sexual assault, should not have been confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Republicans, of course, were a notable exception, with 83 percent saying he merited confirmation. There was also a marked split in how men and women felt about the confirmation vote, with men narrowly in support (50 to 46 percent), but two-thirds of women against.
- Unexpected: No surprises here.
To learn more about what’s on your ballot, check out the CALmatters voter guide.