A month before the Nov. 8 election, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has significantly higher approval ratings than her predecessor, Chesa Boudin, had in the lead-up to being recalled, according to The Standard’s new voter poll.
But will it be enough to help her keep the job beyond this year?
In a survey conducted during the first week of October, 56% of voters approved of the job Jenkins is doing—far higher than the 30% who approved of Boudin’s work in a poll The Standard conducted a month before the June recall that ultimately unseated him.
The fall SF Standard Voter Poll surveyed 944 registered voters in English and Simplified Chinese about their opinions on the city, its government and its challenges. Fielded by Embold Research from Oct. 1-7, 2022, the poll results are representative of the SF voter population within an error range of +/-3.9%.
Jenkins, of course, played a key role in turning the tide against her former boss, as she served as a spokesperson for the recall while receiving a significant salary from a nonprofit tied to the progressive prosecutor’s ouster. Her work during that time is now the subject of an ethics complaint.
While the new results align with other polling showing Jenkins as front-runner in the district attorney’s race, a key difference in The Standard’s poll was the number of undecided voters: 58% of all voters said they were unsure who they want to serve out the remainder of Boudin’s term through 2023. That figure rises to 61% among voters who say they'll vote in the November election.
This uncertainty raises questions of whether or not Jenkins will be able to translate her positive approval rating into a win on Election Day, or whether her competitors still have time to close the gap—especially when ranked-choice voting is taken into account.
Support from likely voters broke down as follows: 28% for Jenkins; 9% for criminal defense attorney John Hamasaki; 5% for former prosecutor Joe Alioto Veronese; and less than 1% for attorney Maurice Chenier.
Maggie Muir, a political consultant who is managing Jenkins’ campaign, said the poll shows residents have been receptive to the district attorney’s approach since receiving the appointment.
“She is very aligned with what San Franciscans want their DA to be working on, and I think that shows in those approval ratings,” Muir said.
“It’s not unusual that you have a lot of people who are undecided—people are just getting their ballots now. She has only been in office for just two months. Having said that, her numbers are quite strong.”
Jenkins earned key support from voters who say their political views on crime, drug use and homelessness in the city have become less progressive over the past three years. She garnered the backing of 38% of voters who fall into this category, compared with 4% for Hamasaki, although all the figures for Hamasaki are based on a small sample size and are shared for general comparisons. Alioto Veronese supporters were too small a group to profile.
Since taking over the District Attorney’s Office, Jenkins has prioritized drug enforcement. She announced a policy to hold prolific drug dealers in jail ahead of trial and another to steer drug users into treatment. Her prosecutors have begun threatening to pursue murder charges against fentanyl dealers, though judges are shooting down the efforts.
Meanwhile, the poll found that voters whose views have become more progressive on crime, drug use and homelessness were most likely to support Hamasaki, with 20% backing him compared with 10% supporting Jenkins.
“Brooke Jenkins has been at press conferences and out with the mayor every day, and still to [have support from] under a third of likely voters should be a big warning sign,” said Hamasaki, who received the top endorsement from the local Democratic Party. “We expect our momentum to keep going up until Election Day.”
People who approve of the work of the Board of Supervisors were also more likely to vote for Hamasaki (19%), while Jenkins had strong support among voters approving of Mayor Breed’s performance (49%).
“The way I see it, anyone who is going to vote for Brooke is not going to vote for John,” Alioto Veronese said. “And anyone who is going to vote for John is not going to vote for Brooke. I’m the only candidate who picks up both of those constituencies on the second vote.”
Jenkins had a commanding lead among technology workers, 35% of whom said they would vote for her compared with 10% for Hamasaki. Parents and guardians of minors were also most likely to vote for Jenkins, with 38% saying they’d vote for her.
People who support only building affordable housing in the city were more likely to vote for Hamasaki, while those who want the city to build any type of housing—or only market-rate housing—were far more likely to say they’ll vote for Jenkins. In that vein, people who said that housing affordability is the key to improving the quality of life in San Francisco polled strongest for Hamasaki.
Jenkins led her opponents in all racial demographics, although that gap was widest among Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), 31% of whom said they would vote for her compared to Hamasaki’s 8%. Jenkins’ outreach to this community has been a key focus of her campaign, as AAPI voters played a critical role in the Boudin recall.
The city’s Department of Elections began sending out mail-in ballots Friday, leaving the candidates with 27 more days to make their case to voters.
Correction: The comparison of support from different voter subgroups was clarified to note that the smaller sample size for Hamasaki voters means the data is only shown for general comparisons. Some subgroup analyses based on small sample sizes were removed.