Why Are The Poll Numbers All Over The Place In CA Governor’s Race?

Depending on which pollster you ask as California voters begin to turn in their ballots, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s bid is wrapped in an aura of inevitability – OR wealth management financier John Cox, Newsom’s opponent in the governor’s race, is dramatically closing the gap between them.

Whence cometh the difference?

On Wednesday, the same day it endorsed Newsom, the Los Angeles Times published the results of a survey it conducted with USC Dornsife, which found “54% of likely voters in the state favored Newsom for governor compared to 31% who support Cox. The remainder were undecided.”

That poll found a whopping 23-point gap between Newsom and Cox, but another recent poll, conducted by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, found that 51% of voters favor Newsom while 39% said they planned on voting for Cox.

Between the number of undecided voters in these polls, margins of error, and the inscrutable humor of the electorate these days– that would mean the California governor’s race is still in play.

That’s still a lead for Newsom, but a much less dramatic 12-point lead. And between the number of undecided voters in these polls, margins of error, and the inscrutable humor of the electorate these days – that would mean the California governor’s race is still in play.

One might attribute the marked difference in the survey results to the California governor’s debate, which took place on October 8 via radio (read IVN’s transcript here) after the PPIC poll was published. Perhaps a number of voters changed their minds after hearing the candidates debate. But the Los Angeles Times survey was conducted from September 17 through October 14.

IVN’s own survey of California voters found an even narrower gap in the governor’s race of 4%, with 48% favoring Newsom, and 44% favoring Cox, with 8% not sure. In these interesting times one should be reluctant to make predictions.