While Californians hold a high opinion of President Barack Obama, they have a grim outlook on the state’s future and a low opinion of their own crop of potential leaders — when voters have even heard of them.
Faced with a budget crisis that has forced massive budget cuts and tax and fee hikes across the state, just 14 percent of voters there say that California is on the right track while 80 percent say the state is moving in the wrong direction, according to a new poll.
Fifty-five percent also said the country is moving in the wrong direction, but Obama remains in good standing, with 60 percent of voters in the state that handed him a landslide victory in the 2008 election approving of his job as president.
The Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll interviewed 1,500 registered voters from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3. It was conducted by Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies with a margin of error of 5.2 percentage points.
“Not only are voters unhappy, they’re skeptical of their political leadership,” said Dan Schnur, director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, on a conference call about the poll Sunday afternoon.
The poll showed that just 43 percent of voters approve of how Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) has handled her job, a dangerously low number for an incumbent.
Yet, few said they knew enough about the two Republicans vying to challenger her, Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore, to offer an opinion about them. And 59 percent said they wanted a “senator who will mostly support President Obama's policies.”
It’s unclear, though, whether Boxer will be able to ride Obama’s coattails into the election next year, said Schnur.
“The warning sign on the horizon for Boxer is that there’s a 16 to 17 point gap between Obama’s approval rating and Boxer’s,” he said.
The poll also underscored San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to abruptly drop out of the race for California governor earlier this month. Nearly three in five California voters said they didn’t know enough about Newsom to form an opinion, and those who did were evenly split between viewing him favorably and unfavorably.
Just four in 10 voters saw Attorney General Jerry Brown – the former governor, presidential candidate, and Oakland mayor who’s now the only major figure seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination – favorably, and 65 percent of Democrats and independents likely to vote in the party primary said they were dissatisfied with their choices.
“Overwhelmingly, Democrats made it clear to us that they would like to see other options,” said Schnur.
But no more than 2 in 10 of all voters, according to the survey, viewed Brown’s potential Republican opponents favorably, while most had no opinion of them. Among Republicans and independents likely to vote in the party’s primary, former EBay chief executive Meg Whitman leads US Rep. Tom Campbell, 35 percent to 27 percent, with ten percent of voters siding with state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Schnur’s attributed Whitman’s lead to her recent flood of radio ads.
Only a third of all voters approved of voters approved of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job leading the state, and 45 percent of voters expressed “disappointment” in him, while another 25 percent felt “anger” or “anxiety.”
Despite their unenthusiasm about the field, 77 percent of those surveyed said they would “almost certainly” cast a ballot in the race.
The poll also addressed California’s perennial hot topics: gay marriage and immigration.
Overall, 51 percent of voters said same-sex couples should be allowed to become legally married in the state, and 43% were opposed. But by nearly twice as large a margin, 56-41 percent, voters did not want the issue to appear on the ballot again in 2010.
And 54 percent of voters preferred Congress to change immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to become citizens if they have clean records, pay a fine and meet other requirements. Thirty-nine percent favored an immigration overhaul that would emphasize stronger border controls and deporting people who are here illegally.