Governor Jerry Brown’s lead over Republican gubernatorial challenger Neel Kashkari dropped to 16% with just two months to go until November’s midterm election, according to the results of a Field Poll published Thursday. Brown previously held a 20% lead in June.
Despite the shift, Brown still has two significant advantages over Kashkari, according to the data. First, Brown holds significant leads with key voting blocs in Independents (18 points), “middle of the road” voters (32 percent), and permanent mail ballot registrants (19 points). The lead among mail ballot registrants is crucial, because the majority of those casting votes in November are likely to do so by mail.
Second, Kashkari still has a recognizability problem. While 91% of likely voters are familiar enough with Jerry Brown to register an opinion of him, just 59% are able to express an opinion on Kashkari, a relative newcomer to the political arena. Brown also remains highly popular in general, with a 58% approval rating to 36% disapproval, although interestingly, Brown’s disapproval numbers shot up 7% between June and late August.
Brown’s comfortable lead is bolstered even further by his dominance over Kashkari in Los Angeles County and the Bay Area; he holds a 63 point lead in San Francisco and a 22 point lead in L.A. County. Meanwhile, Kashkari holds small leads in the Central Valley and other parts of Southern California.
Voter support for both candidates is also highly split along ideological lines; 85% of Democrats approve of the Governor’s job performance, while 75% of Republicans disapprove. For Kashkari, 43% of Democrats disapprove and an identical 43% have no opinion. The majority of Republicans view Kashkari favorably, at 67%, but a significant 30% have no opinion of him.
If Kashkari is to mount a serious challenge to Governor Brown in November, he will need to make himself broadly more recognizable to California’s voters. Brown and Kashkari will face off in Sacramento on Thursday night in what is expected to be their only debate before the election.