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Why do California voters prefer Gavin Newsom? It has to do with Donald Trump, new poll finds

Newsom and Cox will face off for California governor

Watch Election Night highlights of John Cox and Gavin Newsom in California governor's race.
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Watch Election Night highlights of John Cox and Gavin Newsom in California governor's race.

Opposition to President Donald Trump is giving Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom a boost in the race for governor, while Trump’s support is a liability for Republican businessman John Cox’s campaign, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found Newsom with a double-digit lead. A majority of likely voters — 54 percent — said they will vote for Newsom or are leaning towards doing so. Only 31 percent said they will vote for Cox or are leaning towards voting for him.

The poll found that two-thirds of likely voters disapproved of the job that Trump is doing. Of those who said that support or opposition to Trump is “a major driver” in who they will vote for governor, two-thirds are supporting Newsom.

Robert Shrum, director of USC’s Center for the Political Future, said that “people are voting for Newsom because he’s a Democrat in a very Democratic state, because he’s taking on Donald Trump.”

Shrum added that while Trump’s endorsement of Cox in the primary election was enough to help Cox secure a place in the general election, “being endorsed by Trump where his unfavorable is 67 percent is not an asset.”

Shrum added that Cox has yet to offer a coherent and persuasive message to voters. Cox’s signature issues of the gas tax and poor service at the DMV just aren’t winning messages, he said.

“People have always thought the DMV was hopeless,” Shrum said. “They thought it was hopeless when I was a kid.”

The majority of likely voters said that “jobs and economic development” were extremely important factors in their decision on who to support for governor.

Cox supporters also cited taxes and state spending and illegal immigration as key issues, while Newsom supporters favored health care, education and environmental issues.

The online poll, conducted Sept. 17 to Oct. 14, included 794 Californians likely to vote in the Nov. 6 election. The results carry a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Gavin Newsom says he’s willing to take on his own party

Republican John Cox, candidate for California governor tours St. John's Program for Real Change in Sacramento

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7934, @andrewsheeler
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