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California counties with high Covid vaccination rates helped Newsom win the recall election


California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to members of the media after meeting students at Melrose Leadership Academy during a school visit in Oakland, California on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Stephen Lam | San Francisco Chronicle | Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has called his decisive victory in this week’s recall election a win for vaccines and science. He is supported by the data.

A CNBC analysis of county-level results—which are preliminary as mail-in ballots continue to be tallied—found a strong link between support for Newsom and counties with high Covid vaccination rates as of Election Day, Sept. 14.  

Voters in high Covid vaccination rates supported Newsom in large numbers. People in low-covid vaccination rates voted against the governor. 

Tonight’s vote was not limited to “No”. “I want to concentrate on what we stated yes to as a nation,” Newsom told Sacramento’s supporters late Tuesday night. We said yes science, yes vaccines and yes ending this pandemic. 

It was also revealed that many Californians living in smaller counties are less inclined to vote for Newsom or get vaccined. 

17.35% of the 23 California counties had fewer then 100,000 residents. Only 10 out of 35 counties that have more than 100,000 inhabitants voted for the recall. 

Smaller counties had higher vaccination rates. CNBC has found that only 18 of the 23 California counties with fewer than 50 percent of its residents had been fully vaccinated, as of Sept. 14th. This was based on an analysis of California Department of Public Health data.

Lassen County is home to an estimated 30600 people and has a vaccine rate close to 22%. Nearly 84% of the county’s voters voted for recall.

Modoc County is home to an estimated 8800 people and has an average 36.3% vaccination rate. Seventy eight percent of the county’s voters supported recall.

Los Angeles County is at the other end, having a population estimate of more than 10 million and an annual vaccination rate of 59.5%. With 70.8% of its voters voting against the recall, Newsom was supported by them. 

According to Census Bureau data, the majority of rural and mostly rural counties were less inclined to vote for Newsom or get vaccines. The Census Bureau defines rural as any population, housing or territory not within an urban area, or areas with 50,000 or more residents.

Ten of California’s 11 most rural counties voted for recall. These include Amador County. Calaveras County. Lassen County. Mariposa County. Modoc County. Plumas County. Sierra County. Siskiyou County. Tehama County. and Trinity County. According to data provided by the California Secretary.

CNBC analysis indicates that the vaccination rate in all of these ten counties was below 50% by Election Day.

The governor’s victory sentiment was echoed by President Joe Biden who campaigned along with Newsom.

“This vote is a resounding win for the approach that he and I share to beating the pandemic: strong vaccine requirements, strong steps to reopen schools safely, and strong plans to distribute real medicines—not fake treatments—to help those who get sick,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

Although preliminary election results show that Californians are in favor of state pandemic measures and Newsom’s reaction to Covid is what initially put him at risk, 

The recall petition gained momentum late last year thanks to statewide mask mandates and stay-at home orders. Nearly 1.5 million Californians signed it. 

Newsom was successful in recall elections because of how he handled the pandemic over the past months. This included the rollout of mandates and vaccines.

The governor introduced Covid vaccine requirements for state employees and healthcare workers in late July, which took effect on Aug. 5.  He also implemented similar vaccine requirements for teachers and other school staff, a first-in-the-nation measure that took effect on Aug. 12. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom attends a news conference to launch a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination supersite in San Diego, California, February 8, 2021.

Sandy Huffaker | Pool | via Reuters

In the weeks leading up to the election, Newsom’s campaign slammed conservative talk show host Larry Elder, the Republican frontrunner, for pledging to reverse such vaccine mandates and other pandemic measures. 

Newsom’s energetic campaigning highlighted the high state’s recent vaccination rates. As of Friday, 59.23% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

A September survey revealed that 34% of Californians thought the state government was doing an “excellent, or good” job in providing Covid-19 vaccines. The Public Policy Institute of California conducted a survey and found that 66% of respondents said they are satisfied with Newsom’s response to the pandemic. 

“While a small group of craven, venal con-artists in the Republican party try to get attention by undermining trust in science and public health, the vast majority of Americans haven’t been fooled—they understand that vaccinations save lives,” said Los Angeles-based Democratic consultant Michael Soneff in an email.

Soneff said that the majority of Americans believe vaccinations are good for health and they support mandates to get them.