HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

Bee file, 2011. Gov. Jerry Brown studies his notes Thursday before presenting his 12-point pension overhaul plan to a legislative committee.

Poll shows Brown still rates high, but unpopular cuts loom

Published: Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 - 3:38 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown's public approval rating is still relatively high after almost a year in office, but it has slipped slightly, and the specter of additional spending cuts could erode it further, according to a new Field Poll.

The Democratic governor's job approval rating nudged down two points from September, to 47 percent, according to the poll, while the percentage of voters who disapprove of his performance ticked up four points, to 36 percent.

"The public is, I think, bracing itself for additional spending cuts, and that's never a good situation, either for the governor or a state Legislature," poll director Mark DiCamillo said.

With state revenue falling below projections, the Brown administration is expected this month to announce highly unpopular, automatic spending cuts in service areas including schools.

Nearly two-thirds of Californians consider the trigger cuts, part of last summer's budget package, a bad idea, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents, the poll says.

DiCamillo said the expectation of those reductions and of an austere budget again next year may already be hurting Brown.

"It's kind of clouds on the horizon," DiCamillo said.

Brown told lawmakers on Thursday that the budget he proposes in January is "going to be difficult," one "you're not going to like."

Lola Young, a retired bookkeeper who lives in Sacramento, has a favorable opinion of Brown so far in the first year of his third term.

"Up to this point, I think he's doing all he's capable of doing," the 72-year-old said.

But she said further spending reductions are likely to disappoint supporters.

Brown's approval rating remained highest among Democrats, at 66 percent. Among Republicans, 64 percent disapproved of his performance, according to the poll.

"I think I would disagree with him on about 99 percent of his policies," said James Stewart, 60, a Bakersfield Republican.

Said Steward, "I'm a very conservative conservative."

Meanwhile, the Legislature's job approval rating remains dismal, with 62 percent of voters disapproving, according to the poll.

Californians' overall mood about the state also remains sour. Twenty-one percent of voters feel the state is generally going in the right direction, down three points from September, according to the poll. More than two-thirds of voters believe the state is seriously on the wrong track.

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