Field Poll: Californians sour on Obama

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2011 - 4:14 pm

Even in heavily Democratic California, President Barack Obama's job approval rating has plummeted among voters, largely on his handling of the economy, according to a new Field Poll.

Though Obama is strongly favored to win California in his re-election bid next year, the poll suggests many Democrats may vote for him only begrudgingly, and it is yet another indication of weakening support nationwide.

"When you're seeing vulnerability in a state like California, I think that really is ominous for his national standing," Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said.

For the first time since Obama took office in 2009, less than half of California voters – 46 percent – approve of the job he is doing, just two percentage points more than disapprove, according to the poll.

Obama's decline has been quick and widespread: As little as three months ago, his approval rating in California was 54 percent. Since June, his rating has suffered double-digit percentage drops among Democrats, nonpartisans, Central Valley residents, men, African Americans, Asian Americans and voters over 65.

It has fallen nearly 20 points since Field's post-inaugural measure in March 2009 had him at 65 percent approval.

Though a plurality of Californians remain inclined to re-elect Obama, his margin is slimmer than before. Forty-nine percent of California voters are inclined to re-elect him, according to the poll, five percentage points more than are inclined not to.

California remains so heavily Democratic that no Republican presidential candidate is expected to campaign seriously against Obama here. But even among Democrats, Obama's job approval rating fell 10 percentage points, to 69 percent, according to the poll.

Elizabeth Ramos, a Fresno Democrat, was hopeful for Obama when she voted for him in 2008. But she has become disillusioned, finding him too willing to negotiate with congressional Republicans.

"We need somebody who would stand up to the Republicans and lay down the law," the retired social worker said. "The approach has been, 'well, let's try to work with them.' It hasn't worked."

But Ramos, 89, will likely vote for Obama again.

"The alternative of having a Republican in there is just a disaster I wouldn't consider," she said. "I don't have any other good choice."

Obama's public approval rating has been damaged nationwide by the weak economy and his handling of it, including nationwide unemployment of more than 9 percent and a debt-ceiling debate that dragged approval ratings down for both Obama and House Republicans.

Unemployment is even worse in California, at 12 percent.

"Going into an election year, it's not the way you want it to be working out," DiCamillo said. "You want to be trending up, you want the economy to be perking up."

Of California voters, just 40 percent approve of Obama's handling of the economy, according to the poll. Fifty-four percent disapprove.

Many Democrats who support Obama's policies are worried about his re-election prospects, including Betty De La Rosa-Gonzalez, 60, a retired collections agent who thinks Obama is unfairly criticized.

"I don't think anybody else is happy with him," the Merced woman said. "His polls are falling, and they're falling fast."

Obama's standing among voters saw its greatest decline among independent voters and residents of the Central Valley, according to the Field Poll. Forty-five percent of independent voters approve of the job Obama is doing, down from 58 percent in June.

Barbara Powell, a retired businesswoman from Sacramento, said she worries about unemployment and the economy.

Powell, an independent voter, said Obama "promised so much," but she still sees businesses closing and wonders where people will find work.

"I believe our president is just a lot of rhetoric," the 73-year-old said.

In another major indicator for Obama, just 21 percent of California voters believe the country is generally going in the right direction, down from 33 percent in March.

Republicans are the most unhappy among California voters: Eighty-nine percent of GOP voters think the country is seriously off on the wrong track.

Despite his falling job performance rating, Californians still like Obama personally, with 55 percent of voters viewing him in a generally favorable light, according to the poll.

More California voters than not – 49 percent to 38 percent – also approve of Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan, according to the poll.

But his support in that area has declined, too. A year ago, 53 percent of California voters approved of the job he was doing in the war in Afghanistan.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by David Siders




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