Driven in large part by criticism over Newsom's handling of the pandemic, the recall effort gathered steam over the winter amid surging coronavirus cases and ongoing restrictions. In late April, the campaign officially gathered enough valid signatures to force an election later this year, likely in November.
It will mark just the second time in state history that voters will decide if a sitting governor should be booted out of office before a regularly scheduled election. The first recall happened in 2003, when Gov. Gray Davis was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The PPIC poll found that California's markedly improving coronavirus rates, and increasing number of vaccinations — a dramatic turnaround from earlier this year — are likely working in Newsom's favor. Overall, 55% of Californians say they approve of his overall performance as governor, while 64% specifically approve of his handling of the pandemic. And a full 75% of Californians think the state is doing an excellent or good job of distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
"There is increasing optimism that the worst is over with the COVID crisis," Baldassare said, noting that more than 8 in 10 Californians believe the worst of the pandemic is behind them. There are, he added, "increasingly positive ratings of the state's handling of the vaccine and increasingly positive perceptions about the future of the national economy."
Despite that rosy outlook, the poll confirmed that distribution of the vaccine remains uneven, with just 56% of Black people and 60% of Latinos saying they had received at least one dose, as compared to 72% of whites and 80% of Asian Americans.
"That's an area that needs more work in our state, because we're not seeing the kind of equal distribution that we need to," Baldassare said.
A majority of voters surveyed also expressed concern about California's widening income gap, the poll found, with solid majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independent/no party preference voters saying the divide between rich and poor is growing wider. A larger percentage of Democrats, however, say the state should do more to address the issue.
PPIC polled 1,705 California adult residents in English and Spanish by phone between May 9 and May 18. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.2%.