In summary

Even with vaccinations starting this week, people have a far different view of dealing with COVID-19 than the beginnings of shutdowns in March.

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By Dane Strother, Special to CalMatters

Dane Strother, a partner in Strother Nuckels Strategies, is a Sacramento-based Democratic strategist and communications consultant,

Californians overwhelmingly want Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint the best person possible to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Senate seat regardless of race or sex, and people are more overwhelmed by living with COVID-19 than they expected, according to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling.

Though the governor wrestles with whom to pick and is buffeted by constituencies of varying ideology and races, some 70% said ethnicity didn’t matter and 69% said the sex of the appointee is irrelevant. These are among the findings of the poll conducted by Strother-Nuckels Strategies of 761 California voters.

Who exactly voters support for the Senate seat is undefined. Congressmember Karen Bass received 14% in a list of nine potential candidates with Secretary of State Alex Padilla at 11% and Attorney General Xavier Becerra receiving 10%.  The three are within the margin of error of the poll. However, among African Americans, Bass garners a plurality of the vote preference at 44% with the next closest choice of Rep. Barbara Lee at 11%.  Among Latinx voters, there is no such plurality with Padilla at 22% and Becerra at 18%.

And while the public at large may not care, Newsom would certainly be hard pressed not to select a woman or person of color to fill the seat. 

There is also certainty of Californians’ concern with COVID. 

When asked if personally dealing with COVID and all that comes with it had been more difficult than one thought, 28% said much more difficult, 32% said somewhat more difficult and 36% said less or not difficult at all.  

With the start of vaccinations, 41% said they will definitely get the shot and 26% likely. Some 25% are unlikely or will refuse.  When asked if they thought their neighbors would be vaccinated 22% said certainly and 39% said likely with 20% not sure what their neighbor would do. Only 49% of those who voted for President Donald Trump will certainly or likely get a vaccine as opposed to 77% of those who voted for Joe Biden.  

Even with vaccinations starring this week, people have a far different view of dealing with COVID-19 than the beginnings of shutdowns in March when 46% of people expected life to return to normal in three months or less, according to an SNS poll. Today 49% believe a return to norm will take longer than six months and 15% don’t ever expect a full return.

Perhaps accordingly, 72% support Newsom’s outdoor mask mandate though it breaks heavily along party lines with 90% of Democrats supporting masks and only 46% of Republicans.  Independents are in the middle with 61% supporting the edict.

As to what the first thing someone will do upon being vaccinated, the answers differ per political persuasion. Nineteen percent of Republicans will have a meal indoors at a restaurant. Twenty-two percent of independents will take a vacation and 20% of Democrats will hold a large gathering of family and friends. 

And as this article is about a poll it’s sobering to note that only 52% believe polls are accurate. Only 25% of Republicans and 39% of No Party Preference voters believe in the science of polling. Some 70% of Democrats believe the numbers. 

It’s worth noting this poll accurately found that 63% of voters supported Biden which may give some of the naysayers pause. But then nothing is clearly 20/20 in this year of 2020.

Read the full results of the December poll along with the crosstabs at 


Dane Strother has also written about how Californians realize it may take months before life gets back to normal and about moving to California.

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