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Polling error: How one survey changed the Newsom recall campaign

Governor Gavin Newsom at polling place

Ben Christopher | Cal Matters | September 13, 2021

In late July, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren hit the airwaves with an ad not only imploring Californians to vote no, but giving detailed instructions how to do so. That same week, the California Teachers Association, the governor’s biggest financial backer in his 2018 election victory, launched a get-out-the-vote campaign and invited the governor to give the keynote address at its summer convention.

The two days after the release of the Berkeley poll in July were among the top five biggest fundraising days for the “Stop the Republican Recall” committee. Between Aug. 1 and 28, the campaign pulled in another $19 million.

Progressive advocacy groups also began a full-court press. Ludovic Blain, the California Donor Roundtable’s executive director, went on a media tour urging Democrats to take the mobilization of voters of color seriously. And on Aug. 12, a constellation of progressive groups, including Courage California, the California League of Conservation Voters and NARAL Pro-Choice held an online get-out-the-vote rally. Some of the speakers were enthusiastically pro-Newsom. But the prevailing sentiment was anti-recall.

“Whatever problem you have with Gavin Newsom, unfortunately this recall is a binary choice,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee, a San Jose Democrat and a frequent critic from Newsom’s left. “Do you want Gavin or do you want something objectively worse than Gavin?”