Berkeley poll evaluates Californians’ opinions on COVID, elections, and Newsom’s job performance

A new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) poll reveals Californians are less concerned about the health threat posed by COVID-19 than they were two months ago. The survey, which polled over 7,000 registered voters in California in mid-September, also reveals opinions related to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s job performance, the presidential election, and ballot propositions.



In July, 67% of registered voters said they felt COVID was becoming more serious in their local area. Now, 28% say they believe it’s becoming more serious, 40% say the threat is about the same, and 31% say they feel the virus is becoming less serious.

When asked whether COVID was causing serious problems in their family’s lives or their personal lives, a majority of respondents (59%) reported that potentially getting sick/getting sick from the virus is a serious problem. Also, 46% of those polled cited a serious problem related to a family member’s reduced wages or work hours. These numbers are slightly down from July findings.

Other negative consequences – such as lost jobs, struggling to pay for basic necessities, and not being able to access medical care – are down from July, but still significant.


Image: UC Berkeley, Institute of Governmental Studies


The latest data also reflects the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of color.

For example, over 80% of Spanish speaking Latinos report that they or their families have been seriously impacted by reduced wages or hours, lost jobs, being unable to pay for basic necessities, and losing their health insurance. On those measurements, between 22% – 36% of white non-Hispanic individuals reported serious negative impacts.

“The findings continue to show important racial disparities across the state.  Latinos, especially those with immigrant backgrounds, continue to have higher pandemic-related economic and health risks today,” says IGS Co-Director G. Cristina Mora.

The poll also asked voters about Gov. Newsom’s job performance across a wide range of issues. Overall, 64% of those polled say they approve of his performance, while 36% say they disapprove. This represents a 7-point increase compared to his approval rating last year, says IGS.

When asked about the most important issues facing California, 27% of voters said homelessness, followed by housing costs (23%), jobs and the economy (21%), climate change (17%), wildfires (17%), and COVID-19 (16%). These opinions varied significantly based on political party.

“There are large partisan differences in the issues voters feel are most important for the state to be addressing.  Most important to the state’s Democrats are the issues of homelessness, housing costs and climate change, followed by the coronavirus and the threat of wildfires.  Republicans most often cite crime and public safety, taxes and the budget deficit, and jobs and the economy, although one in four also cites homelessness,” reads IGS’s report.

Broken down by individual issues, Newsom’s performance rating varies. Newsom’s highest marks were for handling the pandemic (49% excellent/good rating), climate change (34%), race relations (32%) and health care (31%). Newsom ranks lowest on the two issues that Californians said were the most important issues facing the state. Eleven percent said Newsom was doing an excellent or good job on homelessness, and 12% said he was going an excellent or good job on housing costs.

California voters also report that they are concerned about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. Eighty-two percent report they are worried that many Americans won’t respect the outcome of the election, 42% say they don’t feel the election will likely be held in a fair and open way, and 41% expressed concern about if they can trust the postal service to deliver ballots safely and on time.

GS Co-Director Eric Schickler says, “It was not that long ago that voters in both parties had high confidence in the integrity of the election process. The loss of that confidence is a worrisome sign for democratic stability going forward.”

Full results from the survey are available here.