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Californians stand by Obama despite rising gas prices

President Obama at USC
Sixty-two percent of Californians say they feel favorable toward the president, according to the poll. (Photo/Mark Berndt)

President Barack Obama’s job performance rating is the highest among California voters since spring 2010, riding a wave of voter favorability on issues relating to the economy, according to the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.  The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is the largest poll of registered voters in California.

Overall, 57 percent of California voters approve of the job being done by Obama, up seven points among Californians since the previous poll conducted in Nov. 2011. Thirty-eight percent of voters said they disapprove of the president’s job performance.

When polled on specific issues, voters in the state favorably rated the president’s approach to many economic issues, including jobs (53-43 percent), the economy (51-47 percent) and taxes (50-45 percent).

A further breakdown shows that favorability ratings for the president’s performance on jobs were 58-39 percent for Latino voters and 51-45 percent for white voters. When it comes to the economy, Latino voters approved 53-46 percent and white voters were split with 48 percent disapproving and 50 percent approving. On taxes Latino voters approve of the president’s performance 49-44 percent; white voters disapprove by a narrow margin with 47 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving.

“Barack Obama carried this state by a wide margin four years ago, and this poll suggests he’s in a strong position to carry California again this November,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “Voters here are beginning to feel better about the state’s economic future and that optimism is working toward the president’s benefit.”

Voters also approved of the president’s approach to women’s health. Of the voters who give Obama positive marks on women’s health, 71 percent are registered Democrats, 28 percent are registered Republicans and 59 percent decline to state their party registration. Altogether, 26 percent of voters strongly approved of his performance and 29 percent approved somewhat.

On health care in general, 52 percent of voters approved of the job Obama is doing and 44 disapproved. Altogether, 27 percent of California voters strongly approved of the president’s performance on health care and 25 percent approved somewhat.

On other issues, Californians were not as impressed with the president’s performance. Fifty-three percent of voters disapproved of his handling of the federal deficit, and 46 percent of voters disapproved of his performance on immigration issues.

Obama’s performance was rated the lowest among California voters when it comes to the issue of gasoline prices. Sixty-two percent of voters rated his performance unfavorably, with 47 percent of Latino voters and 43 percent of white voters saying they “strongly disapprove” of the president’s handling of the current situation with the high price of gas.

“Gasoline prices would probably have to hit $20 a gallon to put Obama in serious trouble here in California,” Schnur said. “But if voters in a deep-blue state like this one are that unhappy with the way he’s handling this issue, it should be a big warning to what his campaign is going to have to deal with in Ohio or Florida.”

Overall, 62 percent of Californians said they feel favorable toward the president. Along party lines, Obama was rated favorably by 91 percent of self-identified Democrats, 55 percent of self-identified independents and 20 percent of self-identified Republicans.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a solid lead among registered Republican voters in California.

When asked whom they would vote for if an election for president was held today, 42 percent of California Republicans said they would select Romney. Following by a margin of 19 points, 23 percent of Republicans in the state selected Rick Santorum; 12 percent selected Newt Gingrich; and 10 percent selected Ron Paul.

However, Romney is having a hard time rallying the conservative Republican base in the Golden State.
“While Romney maintains a lead over Rick Santorum, he’s not making inroads into the demographic voting groups that have carried Santorum in other states,” Schnur said.

“Romney is winning the state by a large margin because the Republicans who tend to support him — suburban, upscale, more moderate Republican voters — are more populous than in the Midwest or the South,” Schnur said. “The types of voters who tend to support Rick Santorum — working class voters and religious conservatives — are not shifting to Romney in California. There just aren’t many of them here.”

Overall, Republican voters in California have lukewarm feelings for the candidates who could win their party’s nomination.

Registered Republicans in California were asked if they were satisfied with their candidate choices for the Republican presidential nomination or if they would prefer other options. Forty-six percent of those polled said they were satisfied; 50 percent said they would prefer other options.

When Californians were queried whether they would vote for Obama or Romney in a hypothetical match-up, Obama led with 57 percent support compared to 36 percent support for Romney. In similar theoretical match-ups, Obama led Gingrich 62-30, Santorum 61-31 and Ron Paul 59-31.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted March 14-19, and surveyed 1,500 registered voters in California. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Follow all election news coverage at Election 2012, a resource for journalists and others interested in politics created by USC Media Relations.

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Californians stand by Obama despite rising gas prices

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