California’s embattled governor Gavin Newsom is facing the political fight of his life, with the voters of the Golden State set to decide in two weeks if Newsom will be voted out of office before his term ends. Polls have shown that the recall election will be very close, with the option to recall the governor garnering popularity. If Gavin Newsom wants to keep his job he will need every vote he can have and it appears that California’s Latinos are poised to give Newsom’s recall chances a devastating blow.
California’s recall vote is set for September 14th and many Californians can already cast their ballots via mail. While California is an extremely Democratic state where President Biden defeated Donald Trump by an almost 2-to-1 margin in 2020, the polls are showing far less support for the Democratic governor.
Although Newsom has significantly improved his numbers from last weeks, with the Real Clear Politics poll aggregator showing him with an 8 point lead in the recall, the governor is still barely over 50% and an energized Republican base could close the gap. Furthermore, data from surveys have shown a potentially fatal weak spot of Newsom with Latino voters in California.
Will Latinos turn their back in Newsom?
Recently, Politico highlighted a couple of worrisome data points for Newsom. A CBS/YouGov poll, conducted between August 6-12 and with 1,856 adults in California, showed that half of the Latino respondents have decided to vote in favor of removing Newsom from office. Newsom not only underperformed with Hispanics in that poll, with African Americans and Asian Americans also showing higher than usual disaffection with the Democratic Party.
An older UC-Berkely poll, conducted in July also shows that the governor is not having a stellar performance with Hispanic voters, with 40% of Latino voters saying that they would vote against the governor in the recall election. To put matters into perspective, a New York Times exit poll showed that 75% of Latinos in California voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
The Hispanic vote in California is a crucial constituency, much like in other parts of the nation. According to the latest data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, 39.4% of the California population is Latino, while the Pew Research Center calculated that 30% of eligible voters in California are Hispanic. Hence, even a few percentage point swings against Newsom could have a significant effect in an election, especially one where turnout is expected to be lower than a general election.
A shift from the Hispanic voter towards the GOP would not be a new development, with the 2020 election showing a significant swing of Latino voters towards the Republican Party. The Democratic consulting firm Catalist released a report which found that the Latino vote collectively voted 8 points more Republican than in 2016.
The conservative shift of the Latino vote in 2020 was most noticeable in Florida and Texas, where Trump managed to make significant inroads in immigrant counties like Miami-Dade or those bordering Mexico in Southwest Texas. However, this was not unique to Florida and Texas, with immigrant communities around the country voting more Republican in 2020 than in 2016.
However, not all surveys have shown the same shift against Newsom within the Hispanic voter. A PPIC poll, conducted between August 20-29, showed that the Governor has 66% support among Latino voters, while a Survey USA poll from August 26-28, showed that 60% of Latino respondents would vote to keep Newsom in office.
With surveys split in the preferences of the Latino voter on the recall election, both campaigns will surely try to shore up their efforts to reach the Hispanic community ahead of the September 14th vote as Democrats understand they cannot take the Latino vote for granted and Republicans learn that Hispanics are not an immovably liberal voting bloc and try to consolidate their gains of 2020.