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California Democrats vote along broader political lines to save Newsom, CNN exit poll shows

Slightly more than 4 in 10 voters in the recall describe themselves as Democrats, with about one-quarter calling themselves Republicans and roughly 3 in 10 describing themselves as independents. Democrats and Republicans are breaking overwhelmingly along party lines on the recall, while those independents who voted are about evenly split.

A 55% majority of voters approve of Newsom’s job performance. There is an intensity gap, with more strongly disapproving than strongly approving. Voters’ views on whether the Democratic governor is in touch with Californians like them closely mirror his overall approval numbers.

About half of voters have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, while just about one-third have a favorable view of the Republican Party. Those with favorable views of only the Democrats are nearly unanimous in their opposition to the recall, with those favoring only the Republican Party similarly overwhelming in voting for Newsom’s ouster. Voters with negative views of both parties — about 14% of the electorate — break largely in favor of the recall.

A 55% majority of recall election voters report having voted for Joe Biden in 2020, slightly lower compared with Biden’s actual vote share in the state, which was just shy of 64%. Biden’s job approval among voters in the recall stands around 56%. Roughly 9 in 10 voters who approve of him also approve of Newsom; more than 90% of those who disapprove of Biden dislike California’s governor as well.

A majority of voters say they’d be either concerned or scared if Newsom were recalled, with fewer saying they’d be optimistic or excited.

Larry Elder, among the most prominent of the Republican candidates running to replace Newsom, gets negative ratings, with just over a third of voters viewing him favorably and about half viewing him unfavorably. More than 9 in 10 of those who view Elder favorably support recalling Newsom.

California voters largely made up their minds early, with many casting ballots by mail ahead of Election Day. About 7 in 10 voters say they’d made up their minds on how to vote in the recall prior to August, and nearly 9 in 10 that they’d decided prior to September.

The Covid-19 pandemic remains at the top of voters’ minds, with about one-third saying it’s the biggest issue for the state. That’s followed by just over one-fifth saying homelessness, about 1 in 6 saying the economy and wildfires, respectively, and slightly under one-tenth saying crime. Concerns vary across partisan lines: more than 4 in 10 Democrats call coronavirus their top issue, while only about one-fifth of Republicans say the same. On the flip side, Republicans are more than three times as likely as Democrats to name the economy as their top concern.

Those who call the pandemic or wildfires the state’s top concern overwhelmingly oppose the recall, as do a smaller majority of those who say California’s biggest issue is homelessness. About two-thirds of voters who call the economy the biggest issue favor removing Newsom, as do roughly 9 in 10 of those who say crime is the biggest concern.

Voters have mixed outlooks on the pandemic’s course in California, with about 4 in 10 saying the situation is getting better, 3 in 10 that it remains about the same, and just under one-quarter that it’s worsening.

Women make up slightly more than half the electorate in the California recall, just as they did in the 2020 presidential election and the 2018 gubernatorial race. White voters narrowly make up the majority of the electorate, the exit poll data finds, with the remainder people of color. In 2020 exit polling, about half the electorate was White; in 2018, it was 63%.

Less than half of the electorate, about 45%, say Newsom’s policies on the pandemic have been about right, with about one-third calling his policies too strict and the remainder saying they’re not strict enough. Roughly 7 in 10 “Yes” voters say Newsom’s policies were too strict; most “no” voters call Newsom’s Covid-19 restrictions about right, although roughly a quarter of recall opponents think his policies should have been stricter.

There’s broad support for Covid mitigation measures, with roughly 70% of voters favoring mask requirements in schools and more than 6 in 10 saying that getting vaccinated is more of a public health responsibility than it is a personal choice. Nearly all who oppose school mask mandates voted to recall Newsom.

Californians are close to evenly split on the state of California’s economy, with about half calling it good or excellent, and the rest calling it not so good or poor. Voters take a more negative view about the costs of living in their own parts of California, with around 6 in 10 saying that those costs are at least somewhat unmanageable.

About 80% of California voters say climate change is at least a somewhat serious issue, with roughly 6 in 10 calling it very serious. Nearly 90% of voters who oppose the recall say climate change is very serious, while only about one-quarter of recall supporters say the same.

The California CNN exit poll is a combination of in-person interviews with Election Day voters and telephone and online polls measuring the views of absentee by-mail and early voters. It was conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. In-person interviews on Election Day were conducted at a random sample of 30 California polling locations among 2,356 Election Day voters. The results also include 1,352 interviews with early and absentee voters conducted by phone, online or by text. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

This story has been updated with additional findings from the California CNN exit poll.

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