A Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, poll released Friday found that President Joe Biden’s approval ratings in California are at 57%, the highest they’ve been since summer 2021, according to Mark DiCamillo, the director of the Berkeley IGS Poll.
However, despite the majority of Californians approving of his job performance, they do not want Biden to run for reelection by a five to three margin, according to DiCamillo, with a nearly “unanimous” agreement of 85% among Republicans that he not rerun.
“The number one thing in Biden’s favor within the (Democratic) party is there isn’t really a natural challenger out there who seems interested in running and would have a good base of support,” Eric Schickler, the co-director of Berkeley IGS. “In the absence of that, more Democrats are worried how strong a candidate Biden would be, as opposed to actively searching for an alternative and having somebody waiting in the wings.”
Biden’s approval rating may have increased in California due to policy victories like the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as Republicans winning the House of Representatives in November 2022, noted Schickler.
Republicans winning the house gives Biden a “clearly defined opponent,” shifting the blame for the lack of liberal policies from Biden to Republicans, as opposed to the first half of his term, when Democrats had control of both the House and the Senate.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt in most observers’ minds that the Democratic candidate will very likely carry California in November in the general election,” DiCamillo said. “That’s not really the question. The question is who’s going to be the Republican nominee, and how will California influence that selection?”
The poll also found that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ popularity among California Republicans rose, with 37% saying that among Republican nominees, they’d vote for him, up from 29% in August 2022.
He and former president Donald Trump have effectively switched positions, with Trump dropping from 38% in August 2022 to 27% in the recent poll.
“It’s a pretty big shift,” Schickler said. “As education goes up you tend to be less Trump, more DeSantis. I think California is one of the states where DeSantis is running a little bit stronger than nationally, but we’re picking up on the national trend with DeSantis gaining quite a bit on Trump.”
DiCamillo considered the DeSantis lead to be the most surprising part of the poll. He noted DeSantis wasn’t as well-known in August 2022, and part of the reason his visibility may have increased among Californians may “ironically” be because of ads California Gov. Gavin Newsom ran against him.
Schickler also noted that strong dislike for an opposing party is a “powerful” emotion — DeSantis emerging as the main opponent of the Democratic Party can “almost de facto” place him as a leader among Republicans.
Despite all of California’s electoral college votes going to the Democratic Party in national presidential elections when Democratic nominees win the state, DiCamillo pointed out that California still sends the largest proportion of delegates to the Republican National Convention. To win a presidential nomination, Republicans need to do well in California.
“I’m curious if our next couple polls continue to show the same trend especially in the Republican GOP primary in California,” DiCamillo said. “That’s going to be a big deal as we get closer to March of next year. My main interest is whether DeSantis will be able to maintain this comfortable lead he has over Trump.”