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California Recall: CBS News Exit Poll Shows Voters Most Concerned About COVID, Economy

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS News) -- A CBS News exit poll taken Tuesday revealed that the coronavirus pandemic and the state's economy were the issues that loomed largest for voters in the recall election.

Roughly a third of voters said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was the most important issue facing California, followed by about a quarter who said homelessness was the biggest challenge in the state. These issues come out ahead of the economy, wildfires, and crime.

The poll also revealed differences between those voting "no" on the recall and those voting "yes" on what they see as the biggest issue facing California. For those voting "no" on the recall to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office, the coronavirus is the issue they see as the most important facing their state.

For these voters, the pandemic ranks far ahead of any other issues by roughly 20 points. More than twice as many "no" voters than "yes" voters pick it as their top issue.

For those voting "yes" on the recall in favor of removing Newsom as governor, the economy and homelessness are the most important for them, ahead of the coronavirus. Almost three times as many "yes" voters than "no" voters pick the economy as the most important issue facing California. Crime also ranks higher as an issue for the "yes" voters than the "no" voters.

Those voting "no" on the recall are more likely than those voting "yes" to see climate change as a "very serious" problem in California.

Proponents of the effort to recall Newsom have been critical of Newsom's COVID policies, mostly arguing that they are too strict. About a third of voters who cast ballots in this election agree with that assessment, but nearly half of voters disagree, saying his policies have been about right.

There has been heated debate about children wearing masks in schools. More than two-thirds of voters support California's requirement that students wear masks in schools. And amid the debate over COVID vaccine mandates, a majority of voters in the recall election -- about six out of 10 -- view getting the vaccine as a public responsibility rather than a personal choice.

Most of those voting "no" on the recall support California's mask mandate for kids in school and view getting the COVID vaccine as a public responsibility. Most recall supporters oppose the mask mandate for students and see getting the COVID vaccine as personal choice rather than a public responsibility.

Voters' opinions on the condition of California's economy are mixed, with half think it's in good shape, but nearly as many say it's bad. But a majority of voters do feel that the cost of living in the area where they live is unmanageable.

Those voting "yes" on the recall are far more negative about both the state economy and the cost of living. Voters who want Newsom recalled -- who are three times as likely to say the economy is California's top issue -- overwhelmingly say the state economy is either not so good or poor. Three in four say the cost of living in their area is unmanageable.

Most voting "no" on recall have a far more positive assessment of the economy.

Earlier this August, CBS News pre-election polling showed Republicans both more likely and more motivated to vote in this recall election. But so far Tuesday night, while most supporting the recall are optimistic about the prospect of removing Gavin Newsom from office, just 37% of "yes" voters say they are "excited" by the prospect.

On the other side of the equation, there seems to be more urgency: 44% of voters opposing the recall attempt say they are "scared" by the possibility of Gavin Newsom being removed from office.

President Joe Biden -- who traveled to California Monday and campaigned for Newsom -- remains a popular figure in the state. More than half of California voters approve of the job he is doing as president.

Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial recall candidate Larry Elder -- who has led in pre-election polls as the top choice to replace Newsom should he be recalled -- is not especially popular with those voting in the recall election. He is viewed favorably by just about a third of voters who voted on whether or not to recall Governor Newsom. More view him unfavorably.

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