Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari continues to lag far behind incumbent Democrat Governor Jerry Brown, struggling to make up a 21-point gap, according to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll. In an election where few voters are paying attention at all, the only area of the state in which Kashkari is leading is the San Diego/Orange County region, which is traditionally an area of solid Republican support.
One of the driving factors behind Kashkari’s relatively weak numbers–33% against Brown’s 54%–is that the GOP is less united around its party’s candidate. Only 64% of Republicans say they would support Kashkari, while 86% of Democrats say they will vote for Brown. The lack of unity among Republican voters is reflected in the party’s leadership, as well, where several statewide candidates recently declined to endorse Kashkari.
The driving factor behind the poll, however, appears to be solid approval for Brown’s job performance, at 55%. That reflects growing optimism–or, more precisely, declining pessimism–among the state’s voters about the direction California is headed. The gap between “right track” and “wrong track” is still negative, but has stayed within 10 points or less for much of 2014–as opposed to negative gaps near 50 percent just a few years ago.
Young and college-educated California voters, along with voters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, are the most optimistic about the direction of the state, according to the poll–a fact that likely reflects rapid recent job growth in the tech industry, which led California to outpace all other states, including Texas, in job creation in August. Gov. Brown has focused on the tech sector, often dismissing job losses in other areas of the economy.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the forthcoming ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak