A new poll about the potential recall of Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky -- whose June 2 sentence of former Stanford University student-athlete Brock Turner for sexually assaulting an unconscious and intoxicated woman sparked an uproar across the globe and on social media over its brevity -- shows how some county residents would vote in an actual recall election.
Sixty-six percent of the 776 respondents said they would vote to recall Persky, according to the poll conducted June 20-22 by Sextant Strategies & Research, a Claremont-based consulting and research firm, for Capitol Weekly, a publication that covers California government and politics.
The 776 responses were collected from 226,420 registered voters in Santa Clara County who have provided their email addresses to the Registrar of Voters.
The results were "weighted to reflect the overall demographics of all voters, not just those for whom we have email addresses," pollster Jonathan Brown wrote in an email. There are some 788,063 voters registered in the county.
An official recall campaign launched by Stanford University Law professor Michele Dauber and backed by the Progressive Women Silicon Valley State PAC is currently raising funds and plans next spring to gather the signatures needed to mount a special election in Santa Clara County to put Persky's recall to voters. Brown noted in a Capitol Weekly column on the poll that such a "recall is not going to be won or lost based on the number of likes and retweets, speeches given, or how many times the victim's letter is re-read.
"It comes down to the narrow universe of actual voters in Santa Clara County participating in a future, likely low intensity, local election."
The poll found that Turner's sentence -- six months in county jail and three years of probation -- was "widely understood by voters and violated their sense of justice," Brown wrote in the Capitol Weekly column. (Editor's note: The poll actually misstated the sentence, telling voters that the length of probation was three months, not three years. Brown wrote in an email to the Weekly that while he regrets the "inadvertent human" error, he feels "quite comfortable that the length of the jail sentence is the driving factor in these results.")
Sixty-three percent of voters believe that the Turner sentence demonstrates that Persky cannot be fair in any case, rather than a "one-time lapse" on a high-profile case, Brown wrote.
Women, and especially younger women, expressed more than 4-to-1 support of the recall, Brown wrote.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents said the following aligns most closely with their opinion of the sentence: "This sentence is a sign that Judge Persky might have problems with ethics or an ability to be a fair judge in all cases."
Thirty-three percent, however, thought that the sentence represents a "single error of judgment ... a flaw in one stand-alone case."
The implications of race and privilege in this case have been raised by many. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents in the poll agreed that if Turner had been African American or Latino, he would have received a tougher sentence.
After reading a pro-recall statement provided in the survey that calls Persky's sentencing decision an "insult to victims of sexual assault and women," respondents supported the recall in slightly greater numbers -- by an increase of 2 percent.
Support dropped to 59 percent, however, after respondents read an anti-recall message that argues "removing a judge of a single, high-profile case sets a very dangerous precedent that will cause judges to pay more attention to public opinion than following the law and their best judgment."
Voters 55 years and older whom Brown wrote "tend to dominate low-turnout off-year elections, which is what this recall would be" were split on their final recall vote: 51 percent of male respondents 55 years and older said they would support it as well as 55 percent of women in that age group.
Respondents were split evenly by gender (49 percent male and 51 percent female) and were primarily Caucasian. The age groups with the most participation were 18 to 24 years old (24 percent) and over 65 years old (23 percent).
The poll results are available here.
The Palo Alto Weekly has created Storify pages to capture ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case as well as sexual-assault issues at Stanford University. To view them, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.