CBS News poll: California’s vaccinated say unvaccinated are adding risk

As Californians express widespread concern about the Delta variant, they overwhelmingly say the state’s recent rise in cases was preventable, had more people gotten vaccinated and taken more precautions.

California’s vaccinated voice a lot of judgment toward the unvaccinated: “They’re putting people like me at risk” is a top way the fully vaccinated pick to describe those who won’t get the shot, with many others outright “upset or angry” with those unwilling to get it. From a policy standpoint, there’s strong support for vaccine mandates, too.

Meanwhile, as the effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom heads into its final month, Newsom faces what looks like a turnout challenge: while voters would marginally prefer to keep him in office at the moment, it looks like that will heavily depend on whether Democrats in his party get more motivated about it.

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When California’s vaccinated describe people unwilling to get the vaccine, another phrase they select is that “they’re being misled by false information,” in addition to the emotional response of being upset. Far fewer of the fully vaccinated say they respect the decision of those who won’t. 

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Behind some of those sentiments, we also see that while unvaccinated Californians tend to describe the decision to get the shot as a “personal health choice,” the vaccinated are more likely to call it both a personal choice and public health responsibility.

Californians’ list of what may have prevented rising cases is dominated by more vaccinations and taking masking precautions, while far fewer point to other measures like more travel and border restrictions. Nor do they cast any blame on scientists and medical professionals for the recent rise in infections. (Though on this, we do see more partisan differences: Republicans are notable for singling out limiting of border crossings as one top way to have prevented it, more so than more vaccinations or policy measures.)

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So, given all that, vaccine mandates find wide support across California. A large majority support allowing employers to mandate vaccines for employees. And it’s not all that partisan: four in 10 Republicans are OK with this idea, too. There is strong support for making vaccines mandatory for health care workers, and a lot of support for letting businesses that draw crowds also mandate that their customers be vaccinated. Moreover, many people would be more willing to use or visit such a business.

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Support for mandates is even more prevalent among those fully vaccinated in California (which is on the higher end of state vaccination rates) and among them, support rises to the 80-plus percent range. The far fewer who say they won’t get vaccinated are not supportive.

The recall — and the intensity gap

While some Californians are expressing anger toward the unvaccinated, Newsom does get net positive marks among all Californians for his handling of the outbreak — though more calling it “somewhat” good than “very” good — and they tend to think his management has made things better than they might have otherwise have been. But that does not necessarily translate into an easy time against the recall effort.

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Newsom’s political fate would clearly be in better shape if all registered voters turned out next month. But as of now, they don’t all plan to vote. In fact, it’s members of his own Democratic Party who are currently less motivated than Republicans to vote, setting up a high-stakes turnout and motivation contest for Newsom and the Democrats over the next month.

Here’s how it stands right now: In the preferences of all registered voters, “no” to the recall effort is eight points higher than “yes” to recall Newsom. But among the relatively smaller group of likely voters — which includes those who say they’ll definitely vote and express the most motivation to actually do so — the contest shrinks to a four-point “no” edge for Newsom.

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Even looking at it by 2020 presidential vote, those who voted for former President Donald Trump are more apt to say they’re “very motivated” to vote in this recall — by almost 20 points — than are those who backed President Biden.

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For those looking to oust Newsom, there’s a mix of rationales: First is, unsurprisingly, a desire to oppose him, which is even higher than the partisan push to “try to get a Republican into office.” And about half of them are just “trying to shake things up,” which is not an uncommon political sentiment.

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For those who’d vote to keep him, it’s support for Newsom personally, plus the overwhelming sentiment that there shouldn’t be a recall in the first place. And most are also “trying to stop a Republican from becoming governor.”

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Nor is “no” doing overly well with many key constituencies that Democrats count on in California, for instance, white voters with college degrees aren’t as definite about turning out as non-college, and Hispanic likely voters are split.

If Newsom is in fact recalled, his replacement looks quite uncertain: a quarter (25%) of voters say they aren’t sure, and another 20% pick “no one” to replace him. Together, these two groups comprise nearly half of likely voters. The “no one” group is boosted by a lot of Democrats who don’t want Newsom recalled in the first place. Of the candidates who are selected, Republican Larry Elder (23%) is the leading choice, boosted by being the current top choice among Republicans, and 2020 Trump voters.

Among all Californians, not just those voting in the recall, Newsom gets net positive marks for handling the wildfires and the economy, as well as race relations and climate change, and is lower on crime and homelessness, which are among Californians’ top concerns.

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The wildfires and climate change: A concern and a threat

One reason they are top concerns, of course, is that the state is suffering through another wildfire season, and Californians more generally report feeling the impact of climate change in the state. Over a quarter of Californians (and more in rural areas) feel they, themselves, are at very high risk for fire, and over half feel at least some risk. That’s not the only risk they feel. There’s a lot of concern about drought: Two-thirds are feeling at least somewhat high risk. And most say they have felt the effects of extreme weather in their area, too.

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Given all of this, a large majority of Californians say they support state efforts that in recent years have tried to slow the effects of climate change, a view that cuts through party lines. 

This CBS News survey was fielded by YouGov with a representative sample of 1,856 California adult residents interviewed between August 6-12, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on  the U.S. Census American Community Survey, and the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. The margin of error is ±4.0 points for the total sample.

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