A just-released survey by the Public Policy Institute (PPIC) paints an interesting portrait of the political psyche of California voters in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
Californians are sour about the direction of the state and nation, disenchanted with their leaders and morose about the economy, but they’re also more liberal on social issues than they have been in the past.
No surprise that Californians are dissatisfied with government in general—that’s the national mood, too.
“Most Californians—regardless of political party—say things are going in the wrong direction in the state and the nation,” observed Mark Baldassare, PPIC president.
The approval ratings of the state’s Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, and President Barack Obama are nothing to write home about, either.
The PPIC poll shows Obama’s rating as a record low—for California—51 percent ( right before a major fund-raising trip to the Golden State), while Brown’s rating is a steady 41 percent (Likely voters give him a slightly higher rating of 45 percent--not bad in this hostile political environment.).
The divisiveness that has infected both state and national politics is reflected in these ratings. Sixty percent of Democrats approve of the job Gov. Brown is doing, while 56 percent of Republicans disapprove.
Those important Independent voters are split—35 percent approval to 36 percent disapproval.
The news for Pres. Obama isn’t any better.
Although 76 percent of California Democrats approve of the job he’s doing, 81% of Republicans disapprove. Particularly worrisome for the Obama campaign is the survey’s finding that “[f]or the first time among independents, more disapprove (50 percent) than approve (45 percent).”
Things get worse for California’s legislature and the U.S. Congress. On the state level, a majority of Californians (56 percent) don’t much like the legislature.
It’s not surprising that disapproval of the Democratically-controlled body is much higher among Republicans (80 percent) than among Democrats (56 percent); on this issue and two-thirds of independent voters disapprove.
On the other hand, Californians oppose returning the legislature to part-time status (58 percent said it was a bad idea).
The U.S. Congress fares even worse, with almost 2/3 of Californians (64 percent) disapproving a divided Congress’s job performance; disapproval is equally high across parties. (No polarization here.)
Regarding abortion rights, 69 percent of Californians say the government shouldn’t “interfere with a woman’s access to abortion.” There’s been little change in that view since 2000. Today, 63 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of “ideological conservatives” agree with it.
A 2000 PPIC survey showed 38 percent of Californians supportive of same-sex marriage; that has increased to 53 percent in the current survey.
In 2000, when PPIC first asked the question, 55 percent of Californians opposed same-sex marriage; 73 percent of Republicans were opposed while Independents were equally divided and 51 percent of Democrats were in favor. Today, 63 percent of Republicans (a 10 percent drop) oppose gay marriage, while significant majorities of Democrats and Independents approve.
And at a time when the death penalty is heating up nationwide, Californians prefer life imprisonment without possibility of parole (54 percent) to the death penalty (39 percent). In 2000, Californians were divided (47 percent life imprisonment, 49 percent death).
There is another partisan divide on this issue—59 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Independents support life imprisonment, while 60 percent of Republicans support the death penalty--down 5 points from 2000. Then, 57 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of “other voters,” supported life imprisonment and 65 percent of Republicans supported the death penalty.
The irony is that, while California Democrats and Independent voters seem to be moving in the same direction, the current GOP Presidential candidates are not anywhere near where even their own California rank-and-file appear to be. And that will further complicate the resuscitation of the Republican Party in this state.