The State Of California: Polls Show Deepening Divide

California voters take to the polls
Photo credit Mario Tama/Getty Images

With 89 days until Election Day, Joe Biden has built a lead of historic proportions in California.

At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic is underscoring the wide partisan divide in the state, with whom you are supporting for president revealing a lot about how you feel about COVID-19. The latest polling also reinforces the disproportionate impact of the virus, on Californians of color, with Blacks and Latinos far more affected than whites.

For more on all of this, we were joined on KCBS Radio’s "The State Of California" by Professor Eric Schickler, Co-Director of the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

The Berkeley IGS poll is the heir to the old California Poll or the Field Poll, and this week, the institute has released a whole batch of new findings on everything from the presidential race to COVID-19.

Disproportionate racial impact of #COVID19: a brand new @BerkeleyIGS poll finds:56% in CA say #coronavirus is major threat to family's health42% say major threat to family financesThose health threat numbers go up to 66% for Blacks & Latinos, 62% for Asians (48% for whites)

— SovernNation (@SovernNation) August 6, 2020

You’ve got Joe Biden beating President Trump in California by 39 points, 67-28, which is even more than the record 30 points by which Hillary Clinton won the state four years ago. What has the coronavirus pandemic done to how Californians feel about Donald Trump?

We definitely see strong relationship between attitudes towards Trump and how voters see the COVID-19 pandemic and how they’re experiencing it. We see that those disapproving of Trump’s handling of COVID-19 are much less likely to support him. I think we’ve seen a real erosion in Trump’s already low support in this state since this pandemic started.

What are you seeing about independents and which way they’re likely to swing at this point?

When it comes to no-party preference voters in the state, they’re leaning pretty strongly towards Biden. You see among those voters a lot of disapproval of the president’s handling of the pandemic and concern about COVID-19.

How low can it go for President Trump in California?

His support has always been quite low. We’re seeing for the first time in the current poll is a further erosion. We’re seeing moderate conservatives and some voters in the Central Valley flipping away from the president. So those that had been sticking with him, had been eroding just a little bit, but noticeably over the last couple of months.

Can we dig deeper into the partisan divide?
There are a couple of really noteworthy difference. One is whether we’ve reopened too soon. A big majority of Democrats and no-party preference voters think we’ve reopened too soon. It’s the opposite for Republicans. In terms of how effective masks are, we’re seeing a gap between the two groups. We’re also seeing it on reopening the schools, where Republicans are more likely to say they’d like to go back to in-person instruction, where Democrats and no-party preference voters are more for either online learning or hybrid instruction.

Among CA Latinos who are Spanish speakers, #COVID19 is devastating, reports new @BerkeleyIGS poll:84% say #coronavirus poses major threat to family's health79% say major threat to finances72% say paying for basic necessities is a "very serious problem" now because of pandemic

— SovernNation (@SovernNation) August 6, 2020

How do Latinos, Blacks and Asians feel about the threat of the coronavirus?

We see some pretty striking differences across racial groups. First of all, how much has this affected your financial situation? How do you feel like your personal and family health has been affected by the virus? We see the highest rates of concern among Latinos, followed by Blacks and then Asian Americans. Whites, in general, are seeing much less impact and risk for themselves.

Whether someone has kids or not doesn’t impact their views on schools reopening.

That was one of the most striking findings for me as well. It really seems like partisanship matters a lot for that, Democrats and Republicans are seeing it much differently. But, parents and non-parents are seeing the same world and seeing the same kind of trade-off between keeping kids safe in general and the pull of trying to get some return to normalcy.