Poll: Gov. Newsom's approval rating has dropped 18 points over his handling of the COVID crisis

Not long ago it seemed as if Gov. Newsom was going to win over a lot of Californians with is daily focus on the coronavirus. But with the spike in cases leading to shutdowns and an early rollout of the vaccine considered a failure by many, Newsom isn’t looking so good. A new poll published today finds his approval rating has dropped and he’s now slightly underwater.

The latest Berkeley IGS Poll conducted online last week among over 10,000 registered voters finds just 46% approving of Newsom’s performance as governor, while 48% disapprove, 31% of whom disapprove strongly. This represents a big shift in public sentiment from last year when large majorities approved of the job Newsom was doing.

Fueling the decline is the public’s much more negative assessment of the way Newsom and state government are handling the pandemic. The latest poll finds fewer than one in three Californians (31%) rating Newsom as doing an excellent or good job in handling the pandemic overall, down from 49% last September. Also, just 22% offer a positive rating of the job he and state government are doing in overseeing the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines to the public.

It may not sound that bad but compared to where he was a few months ago, it’s a dramatic decline, one which may be difficult to reverse under the circumstances:

“People are reevaluating how well Newsom is doing handling the pandemic,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. “Once your job performance rating starts to decline, it’s more difficult to put it back in the right direction. You kind of accumulate negatives over time.”…

Just four months ago, Newsom had a 64% approval rating — among the highest of any California governor in the past 50 years at the same point in their first term.

“Now he’s falling back to Earth,” DiCamillo said.

Newsom’s poor handling of the vaccine rollout is getting most of the attention right now but there’s another major failure connected to the virus which probably hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should. California has paid out an estimated $11 billion in fraudulent unemployment benefits. And that’s just the fraud that has been confirmed so far:

California Labor Secretary Julie Su told reporters in a conference call Monday that of the $114 billion the state has paid in unemployment claims, about 10% — or $11.4 billion — have been confirmed as fraudulent.

Nearly $20 billion more — another 17% — is considered suspicious, and a large part of that could be found to be fraud, she said.

“There is no sugarcoating the reality,” Su said. “California did not have sufficient security measures in place to prevent this level of fraud, and criminals took advantage of the situation.”

To put this in perspective, the state’s annual budget is around $200 billion. So if we’re talking about $20 billion or $30 billion in fraudulent payments that’s not a very defensible outcome.

Finally, the shift in Newsom’s fortunes has also had a big impact on the effort to recall him. As of last week, 36% said they are ready to dump the Governor while 45% say they would vote to keep him. But the remaining 19% are undecided, so this could still go badly for him if the remaining respondents don’t break his way.

As this local news report from LA points out, this recall got started before the pandemic. It probably wouldn’t have gone very far if not for the lockdowns, the mounting death toll and the poor vaccine rollout. A lot of people are just fed up and Newsom didn’t help himself any by violating his own lockdown order to go out for a fancy dinner at the French Laundry.