Opinion: Debunking of ‘exodus’ bodes well for Newsom
The entire recall campaign targeting Gov. Gavin Newsom has been built for months on the presumption that many, if not most, Californians are unhappy with how things are going, dissatisfied with their own lives and losing hope for a solid future here. This, goes the premise, will make them leap to change leaders barely a year before the next regular election would give them the same option anyway.
Now come two university-level studies that bode very well for Newsom. Both conclude the mass “California Exodus” that this state’s Republican politicians steadily bemoan is largely a fiction and the vast majority of today’s residents still believes in the California “dream” and has strong hope for the future.
High rents and real estate prices have not dented this seriously, say the studies, one from the University of California at San Diego and the other from a compendium of scholars there and at UC Berkeley, UCLA, Cornell and Stanford universities.
As the recall vote draws within just a few weeks, the studies agree that at least two-thirds of Californians believe optimistically their lives will improve if they stay in the state.
The studies do affirm there was population loss over the last year or so, but they also found much of it was caused by deaths from COVID-19, which has so far killed almost 64,000 Californians and infected about 4 million.
For many people, the pandemic induced strong aversions to close personal contacts, a factor that reduced the high birth rate which usually helps California grow.
Among the vaccinated, both those factors are now gone, so the two studies agree that population losses will likely not continue.
All these items are good signs for Newsom, who has been a mixed bag as governor. Despite a slow start, he orchestrated the most successful mass vaccine rollout any state ever saw, driving covid rates in California far below the Southern Republican-led states that fuel most of the current surge caused by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.
His length-of-pandemic rent and eviction controls, set by executive order and valid only until the current state of emergency ends, won him points with the state’s fastest-growing population sectors, Latinos and Asian-Americans.
At the same time, he alienates others with his obvious hypocrisy in sometimes failing to obey the very rules he created.
Newsom, in every poll, figures to lose almost all Republican votes on the recall, while the vast preponderance of Democrats favors keeping him for now.
Those poll results do little to contradict findings of the two academic studies, which concluded less than 20 percent of urban Democrats want to leave California, while about 40 percent of Republicans would consider getting out.
The U.C. San Diego study queried more than 3,000 Californians, 10 percent of them in Spanish. It found less than a quarter of all Californians seriously considering leaving the state, a slight decrease from the percentage so inclined in a 2019 U.C. Berkeley survey.
But residents of the Central Valley and rural Northern California counties were significantly less inclined toward staying, with about 30 percent thinking about moving away. It may be no coincidence that those areas lean significantly more to the GOP than the rest of the state.
This geography may have a major bearing on the recall, suggesting strongly that the most dissatisfied Californians reside in counties where the highest population percentages signed recall petitions while they were circulating.
Both studies found middle-class Californians slightly less likely to believe in the California dream than either lower-income or wealthy compatriots.
So the lower income brackets retain strong hopes of improving their lot, while the wealthy know they’re doing fine. The results among varying age groups: 18- to 24-year-olds are far more likely to believe in a good future here than those aged 50 or more.
This is certainly not the picture of a grossly dissatisfied California painted by every Republican running to replace Newsom. The governor has not yet made that point. He needs to do it soon, and loudly.
The bottom line: To beat the recall, Newsom must draw a turnout representative of all these population sectors. If he does, he can thrive. If not, he may be political toast.
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Email Thomas Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net.