Capitol Alert

California voters split on Dianne Feinstein running again in 2018


U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein continues to draw favorable approval marks from registered voters, but they offer a more grim assessment of whether the 82-year-old Democrat should campaign for a fifth term in 2018.

A new Field Poll found that more voters approve of the job Feinstein is doing than disapprove, 44 percent to 29 percent. Asked to weigh in about her future prospects, they provided a decidedly mixed reaction: 43 percent view a campaign for a fifth term as a bad thing while 41 percent see her candidacy as a positive development.

The number plunges further among voters who decline to affiliate with a political party, to 48 percent seeing it as a bad thing and just 31 percent as good. With no-party preference voters, “the wind is clearly blowing against her,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll.

Among the partisans, Democrats are largely supportive of another run, 62 percent to 23 percent, while Republicans are not, 20 percent to 68 percent.

Speculation about Feinstein’s future has long been part of the political parlor game in California, and it intensified when veteran Democratic colleague, Sen. Barbara Boxer, eight years her junior, announced this year that she would not seek a fifth term in 2016. Several possible successors to Feinstein have emerged on the Democratic side, notably California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Feinstein, however, has shown no signs of slowing down, continuing in her prominent role on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence while raising money for 2018. Meanwhile, the body’s oldest senator has repeatedly brushed aside questions about her age. Feinstein is roughly three months older than Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is running for re-election in 2016.

While Feinstein would be 85 at the time of her re-election, the poll did not identify her age, or signal her seniority in any way other than to say the next six-year term would be her fifth. Still, the survey found older voters the most downbeat about another Feinstein campaign. Among those voters ages 65 or older, 50 percent believe it would be a bad thing for her to run again, compared with 47 percent of voters aged 40-64; and 35 percent of those aged 18-39.

“If there’s an age group that knows Dianne Feinstein the best, it’s those” 65 years old and beyond, DiCamillo said.

The Field Poll has been asking voters about Feinstein’s job performance since she took office in 1992, and the annual average of those registering no opinion has not exceeded 25 percent. Wednesday’s survey found 27 percent currently offer no opinion, a sign of disengagement, DiCamillo said.

“I think a lot of voters are just not giving Congress much attention,” he said. “Nothing comes out of that legislative body.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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