New poll shows strong support for governor but less for federal leaders

Source: Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, February 3, 2014

Californians approve of their governor and U.S. senators, but support for President Obama has slid and residents are deeply unhappy with Congress, a new poll shows.

Golden State residents gave Gov. Jerry Brown (D) a record-high job approval rating in the survey from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). A total 58 percent of adults and 60 percent of likely voters favored the way the governor has handled his job.

Those ratings for Brown were up from what had been a steady 46 to 51 percent of all adults in PPIC polls from December 2012 through last month.

In the most recent survey, PPIC queried 1,706 California adults Jan. 14-21 via landlines and cellphones. The results have a 3.8-point margin of error.

The poll also asked questions about the state Legislature, residents’ state priorities for the coming year, and how they felt about federal leaders. The state’s record-setting drought was named as one of the issues residents wanted state officials to address.

“The public has a long to-do list for the governor and [state] Legislature to work on this year,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s president and CEO. “Californians have added drought, immigration and health care reform to the perennial issues of the economy, education and the budget.”

The governor’s high approval ratings come in a gubernatorial election year, and though Brown has not officially announced that he’s seeking re-election, it is widely believed he will run.

Asked about which candidate for governor they would vote for in California’s primary in June, 53 percent said Brown, and 17 percent said Republican Tim Donnelly, a state assemblyman and tea party favorite. Another 28 percent said that they didn’t know, and 2 percent answered another candidate. The state has a system whereby the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, advance to the general election.

However, the contest for governor in general didn’t register on Californians’ radar screens. Asked how closely they were following news about candidates for the race, seven out of 10 adults said not too closely or not at all closely.

Golden State residents, while happy with Brown, weren’t quite as pleased with elected leaders on the federal level.

President Obama’s job approval among likely voters was at a new low of 46 percent, with 51 percent disapproving. Last January, after his re-election, his rating among that group was 56 approval and 41 percent disapproval, PPIC said.

For all adults, Obama’s favorability in the newest survey was 53 percent, while 43 percent disapproved. This time last year, it was 65 percent approval and 29 percent disapproval, PPIC said.

A slim majority of all adults approve of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Her favorability rating was 52 percent, with 36 percent disapproving and 13 percent answering “don’t know.”

Among registered voters for Feinstein, it was nearly a tie after factoring in the margin of error. Of those people, 49 percent approved, 45 percent disapproved and 6 percent were unsure.

That’s lower favorability among registered voters than Feinstein has seen in other recent PPIC polls. Last January, 55 percent approved, 35 percent disapproved and 10 percent didn’t know. In September of last year, 51 percent gave a thumbs-up, 42 percent disapproved and 8 percent were unsure, PPIC said.

Asked to rate Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) performance, 53 percent of all adults approved, 34 percent disapproved and 14 percent didn’t know. Among likely voters, 48 percent approved, 43 percent disapproved and 9 percent were unsure.

Those are similar to previous ratings for Boxer. In a PPIC poll last September, 48 percent of likely voters approved, 44 percent disapproved and 8 percent were unsure. In January 2013, it was 51 percent favorability, 40 percent who were displeased and 10 percent who said “don’t know.”

Asked about Congress in general, 69 percent of all adults disapproved of the way Congress is doing its job, 26 approved and 5 percent said they didn’t know. Approval of Congress among California’s likely voters was 15 percent, while 82 percent disapproved.

But asked to rate the House member representing their district, 51 percent of all California adults approved, 37 percent disapproved and 11 percent said that they didn’t know. Likely voters were more divided, PPIC said, with 48 percent favoring and 42 percent saying they weren’t happy.

Six of 10 Californians and three-fourths of likely voters said that the president and Congress will not be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year, PPIC said.