Even at a time when California voters feel that the state is headed in the wrong direction, support for Gov. Jerry Brown is increasing in the Golden State, according to results from the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.
Conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, the poll found that 55 percent of California voters approve of the job being done by Brown as governor — his highest rating since he took office in 2011. Previous USC Dornsife/LA Times polls showed him with 49 percent approval (September 2012) and 50 percent approval (June 2013). In the latest poll, 33 percent of voters said they disapproved of the job being done by Brown.
Across party registration, Brown has the highest rating from Democrats with 78-11 percent approval. Decline-to-state voters approve of his performance by 55-28 percent, while Republicans disapprove of his performance by 68-22 percent.
By race, Brown’s job performance has strong ratings across the board. Black voters approve by 67-9 percent, Asian-Americans by 65-17 percent, Latinos by 61-20 percent, and white voters by 51-41 percent.
When queried on the direction of the state, 49 percent of California voters said they felt things have gotten pretty seriously on the wrong track, while 37 percent said things in California are going in the right direction.
Seventy-nine percent of Republicans believe California is on the wrong track, while 11 percent say it’s going in the right direction. Fifty percent of decline-to-state voters say the state is on the wrong track, while 36 percent say it is headed in the right direction. Democrats are more optimistic: 57 percent believe the state is going in the right direction, and 27 percent say it is on the wrong track.
White voters were more likely to rate the direction of the state as on the wrong track (54 percent), compared to 35 percent who say it is headed in the right direction. Similarly, 46 percent of Latinos see the state as headed on the wrong track; 34 percent rate California as headed in the right direction. Meanwhile, 48 percent of black voters and 48 percent of Asian-American voters see the state as headed in the right direction, with 31 percent and 37 percent, respectively, who feel it’s on the wrong track.
“It’s impressive that Brown’s approval has increased at a time when perception of politicians are generally at historic lows,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, part of the bipartisan team with Republican polling firm American Viewpoint that conducted the poll.
“The government shutdown tends to reflect on all politicians at all levels, but I think Gov. Brown has built some insulation from that. This data shows Brown with a strong foundation and a solid core, but also with some work left to do,” he added.
When voters were queried on whether or not they would re-elect Brown as governor of California in 2014, 32 percent said they would select Brown again for the job and 37 percent of voters said they would elect someone else.
In a further breakdown, 17 percent of voters said they would “definitely” re-elect Brown and 15 percent said they would “probably” re-elect him. In comparison, 27 percent of voters said they would “definitely” vote for someone else and 10 percent said they would “probably” vote for someone else. Twenty percent said their vote would depend on the gubernatorial challenger, and 10 percent were undecided.
“Jerry Brown has made less effort to establish a public media presence in California than any governor in almost a quarter of a century,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “The result of that relatively low profile is that voters don’t leap to directly associate him with either specific public policy challenges or their broader concerns about the state.
“A Democratic governor in a Democratic state who hasn’t shut down the government or messed up Obamacare roll out is good enough.”
However, Schnur cautioned against Republicans taking comfort in Brown’s re-election numbers.
“If the same question had paired Brown against a Republican challenger, we probably would have seen significantly different results,” he said.
Californians were divided when queried on the job being done by Brown on individual issues. Brown received higher marks for his work on the environment (50-30 percent approval); crime and public policy (46-37 percent approval); education (45-41 percent approval); health care (44-36 percent approval); immigration (43-38 percent approval); and energy policy (42-29 percent approval).
California voters gave Brown lower ratings on the economy and jobs (47-42 percent disapproval); the state budget deficit (47-38 percent disapproval); taxes (44-42 percent disapproval); illegal immigration (44-34 percent disapproval); prisons (44-31 percent disapproval); and gun policy (41-28 percent disapproval).
“When you compare Brown’s approval on specific issues, it’s really unique to California and it’s really driven more by California’s ideological leanings,” said David Kanevsky, research director of American Viewpoint.
“Brown is negative on pocket book issues, such as the economy, jobs and taxes, but he’s strong on social and cultural issues, such as the environment, energy and immigration,” he continued. “What’s keeping Brown afloat is the Democratic leanings in the state, specifically on issues that Democrats are really energized about like the environment and immigration.”
According to the poll, voters were most likely to attribute improvements in the state economy to national and international economic forces outside of anyone’s control (41 percent). Twenty-seven percent credited the legislature for coming together and working more efficiently, while 19 percent said it was a result of Brown’s policies.
Conversely, when asked what they felt was most responsible for the California economy not getting better, voters cited dysfunction in the state legislature as the top reason (46 percent). Twenty-nine percent said economic forces outside of anyone’s control were to blame, and 15 percent credited Brown’s policies.
When read a pair of statements about Brown and the economy, voters were more likely to agree with the idea that the governor has laid the foundation for California’s economy to get back on track.
Forty-nine percent of Californians said they agreed more closely with the statement: “Brown cut billions in spending and made major reforms to state government. Now California could have a budget surplus for the first time in years, and we can get back to helping businesses grow and create jobs in local schools to create a stronger California.”
The second statement, which 42 percent of Californians agreed more closely with, read: “Gov. Brown has had three years to solve California’s economic problems, but we’re still no better off than we were. He’s raised taxes to pay for government programs and his economic policies are preventing businesses from creating jobs. Brown has been more of the same in Sacramento, and we need a new direction to get the California’s economy back on track.”
Altogether, 32 percent of voters “strongly” agreed that Brown has created a strong economic foundation in the state, and 17 percent “not so strongly” agreed. In comparison, 32 percent said they “strongly” believe California needs a new direction, and 10 percent said they “not so strongly” agreed.
Overall, 50 percent of voters said they were hopeful about Brown and are still hopeful; 27 percent said they were never hopeful about Brown; and 17 percent said they were hopeful but have been disappointed by the governor.
When it comes to the state’s economy, 47 percent of Californians believe that it has already bottomed out and is starting to improve. Conversely, 27 percent said the economy has not yet bottomed out and has gotten worse, while 23 percent said it has reached the bottom and is not yet improving.