California Recall Voters Most Concerned About COVID in Good News for Newsom: Exit Polls

An exit poll during the California recall election shows that voters are most concerned about the coronavirus pandemic.

About one-third of voters have said that COVID-19 remains the biggest issue in the state, according to a California exit poll conducted for CNN and other news networks by Edison Research.

In the recall fight, Gov. Gavin Newsom's campaign has made the governor's COVID response the center of his race. Newsom has discussed his orders mandating vaccinations or requiring testing for state workers and teachers and has warned about what could happen if the Republican party has taken control. Conservative radio host Larry Elder, Newsom's lead rival, has vowed to repeal mask and vaccine mandates if he's elected.

In the early months of the pandemic, Newsom was praised for his response to COVID. After establishing a lockdown order that helped reduce deaths during the first surge of COVID and for providing reassuring daily updates throughout the pandemic, Newsom received strong praise from across the nation.

Just 3 in 10 voters also said the governor's response to the pandemic was too strict, despite efforts to use Newsom's efforts against him, according to ABC News. And 6 in 10 Californians rated the Republican party unfavorably in the exit poll.

Voters differed on the pandemic's forecast with 4 in 10 saying the situation is getting better, 3 in 10 that it's about the same, and just under one-quarter that it's worsening, according to CNN.

gavin newsom covid exit polls
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, shown here speaking to union workers and volunteers on election day at the IBEW Local 6 union hall, could defeat the recall, according to exit polls that show voters are most concerned about COVID. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Data also shows that the majority of voters, about 54 percent, feel that Newsom is in touch with their concerns, and almost 70 percent support the state's mask mandate. Sixty-three percent also agree with Newsom that vaccination is a public health responsibility, according to ABC News.

Most voters, about 55 percent according to the exit poll, said that they'd be "concerned" or "scared" if Newsom were removed from office. Around 40 percent said they would be "excited" or "optimistic."

More than one-fifth of voters said that homelessness was the biggest issue, putting the topic in second place, and 1 in 6 said the economy and wildfires, respectively, were the most concerning. Less than one-tenth of voters said crime.

Depending on the voter's party, their level of concern for different topics varied.

More than 4 in 10 Democrats cited COVID-19 as their top issue while one-fifth of Republicans said the same. Republicans were also more than three times as likely to list the economy as a top concern compared to Democrats.

According to ABC News, 6 in 10 voters called the cost of living in their area "unmanageable," however the state's economy was rated evenly positive or negative by the electorate at about 49-48 percent.

Exit poll data shows that women make up just more than half the electorate in the recall vote. The same was true during the 2020 presidential election and the 2018 gubernatorial race.

White voters narrowly made up the majority in the electorate, and in 2020 exit polling about half the electorate was caucasian. In 2018, the number was 63 percent, according to CNN.

Polls close at 8 p.m. local time.