A new poll by Emerson College Polling and Inside California Politics shows 62.8% of registered voters in California think Sen. Dianne Feinstein should resign instead of finishing her current term in office.
Questions about Feinstein’s ability to serve have surfaced in recent years, but her recent extended leave from Congress after a shingles diagnosis brought the issue to the forefront of legislators’ and voters’ minds.
Just 37.2% of respondents to the poll said Feinstein should finish out her current term, which ends in January 2025. The poll was conducted between June 4 – 7.
Voters’ opinions remained consistent between ideological leanings: 37.7% of registered Democrats, 36.4% of registered Republicans and 37.2% of independents all thought Feinstein should finish her term.
Republican political strategist Rob Stutzman said aging politicians is nothing new.
“The U.S. Senate has a long history of senators remaining in office in their 80s and 90s…,” Stutzman said. “What’s changed is it’s more difficult to hide the impairment from the public.”
Answers from male and female respondents also came within two percentage points of each other. 36.1% of men and 37.8% of women said Feinstein should not resign.
The poll also shows that the older the voter, the more likely they are to say Feinstein should step down.
“Older voters are more likely to say Feinstein should resign: 58% of voters under 50 think the senator should resign compared to 68% of voters over 50 who say the same,” Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling, said.
Feinstein’s Return to Congress
Feinstein, who at 89 is the oldest senator currently serving, spent nearly three months away from the U.S. Capitol during her leave.
Even after Feinstein returned to the Senate in early May, California’s first female U.S. Senator has been dogged by questions of her ability to perform her duties.
Less than a week after her return to Washington D.C., Feinstein reportedly told a reporter she hadn’t been gone.
Later, The New York Times reported that Feinstein had also been diagnosed with encephalitis, a rare disease which the paper said is “characterized by swelling of the brain…. (and) can leave patients with lasting memory or language problems…”.
Voters’ view of Feinstein since her return
The poll found that 47.5% of California voters disapprove of the job the long-serving senator is doing.
21.7% of respondents said they approved of Feinstein’s performance. 30.8% said they were neutral or had no opinion.
Feinstein was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, and earlier this year, she announced she would not run for re-election.
Should Feinstein step down before the end of her term, California Gov. Gavin Newsom would appoint someone to the seat, and he had previously pledged to appoint a Black woman.
The U.S. Congress’s upper chamber has not had a Black woman since Kamala Harris ascended to the vice presidency.
The way the California electoral system works, should Feinstein resign, voters would again find themselves voting on two U.S. Senate races in 2024, as they did in 2022.
One race would decide who would take over from Newsom’s appointee and finish out the partial term from the November general election until early January, when new senators are sworn in.
The other race would decide who would be California’s U.S. Senator for the next full 6-year term.
Poll results on Newsom, Padilla
Newsom’s first appointee to the U.S. Senate, Alex Padilla, who later won an election for a full term, has a 32% approval rate from California voters, according to the poll.
22.9% of voters said they disapprove of Padilla’s performance as senator, with 45.1% saying they felt neutral or had no opinion.
The poll also found that 44.7% of respondents approve of Newsom’s job as governor. 39.4% said they disapprove, and 15.8% said they were neutral or had no opinion.