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Californians say they want change but still approve of Sens. Boxer and Feinstein

Strong support exists for the state’s emerging generation of Democratic leaders.

Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein,
Sens. Barbara Boxer, left, and Dianne Feinstein

A strong majority of California voters say they are ready for change even as they continue to support U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, according to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

The poll found 46 percent of voters have a favorable view of Boxer, and 35 percent have an unfavorable view. Forty-eight percent of voters said they have a favorable view of Feinstein, and 32 percent said they have an unfavorable view of her. Among registered Democratic voters, both senators enjoy a 66 percent favorable rating.

California voters also were asked — in a question that did not specifically name Feinstein or Boxer — whether the state would be better off if California’s two U.S. senators who have served for 22 years continued to run for re-election or if new candidates became senators.

Better off with new candidates?

Nearly six in 10 voters said the state would be better off with new candidates, as opposed to 29 percent who said California would be better off if the long-serving senators continued to run. Forty-eight percent of voters said they felt “strongly” that the state would be better off with new candidates, according to the poll.

What these numbers reflect is a general restlessness in the electorate and a dissatisfaction with the way politics are practiced in Washington.

Dan Schnur

“Both Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer can get re-elected in California for as long as they want. No Republican is going to beat them and no plausible Democrat is going to be foolish enough to challenge them,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “But what these numbers reflect is a general restlessness in the electorate and a dissatisfaction with the way politics are practiced in Washington. It does suggest the need for a new generation of political leaders in California.”

Boxer’s favorability has risen since voters were last asked about her in the November 2010 poll. In that survey, 43 percent had a favorable impression of Boxer and 46 had an unfavorable impression. Those results came just days after Boxer won a hard-fought re-election campaign against challenger Carly Fiorina.

“I would not take this as anything close to an indicator of electoral weakness for Boxer or Feinstein,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, part of the bipartisan team with Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. “These are two senators who not only have delivered consistently for the state and have very strong positive ratings, but they’ve avoided the type of negativity that generally would surround somebody getting caught up in anti-incumbent sentiment.”

Favorability for Feinstein and Boxer was lower among younger voters and Latinos.

Younger voters aged 18-49 gave Boxer a favorable rating of 42-30. For voters 50 and older, Boxer’s favorable rating was 51-41. Younger voters gave Feinstein a 41-29 favorable rating and older voters gave her a 56-36 rating.

Among various ethnic groups, Boxer’s favorability was 67-16 for black voters, 57-23 for Asians, 47-20 for Latinos and 44-45 for whites.

For Feinstein, they were 66-11 for blacks, 59-22 for Asians, 48-41 for whites and 39-18 for Latinos.

“Both Feinstein and Boxer have softer ratings with key parts of the state’s Democratic coalition, like younger voters and Latinos, that could indicate a desire for change and a new generation of leadership,” said David Kanevsky, vice president of Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. “We may be getting to a point where it’s less about partisan labels and more about each candidate’s coalitions — ideologically, geographically, generationally, socioeconomically, ethnically. With California’s top-two primary, that’s where you can see the Democratic coalition fracturing against itself and causing consternation for incumbents across the board.”



The new generation of Democrats

The poll also showed solid support for the state’s emerging generation of Democratic leaders.

Thirty-percent of voters have a favorable view of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, with 19 percent who said they have an unfavorable view.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s favorability is 30-22; California Attorney General Kamala Harris is 26-12; and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is 25-11.

The news is good for Democrats looking toward the future — there’s a good start to creating a new generation of Democratic leaders.

Drew Lieberman

“The news is good for Democrats looking toward the future — there’s a good start to creating a new generation of Democratic leaders,” Lieberman said.

Each has a strong base of support, the poll showed. Villaraigosa is popular among Latino voters, with 52 percent who view him favorably and 18 percent who view him unfavorably.

Among Bay Area voters, Harris’ favorability is 45-10. And in Los Angeles County, 53 percent of voters view Garcetti favorably, and 15 percent view him unfavorably.

“All of these Democratic officeholders have a strong enough base with key coalition groups that could make the new top two primary interesting, whether it’s for a senate race or a governor’s race down the road,” Kanevsky said.

The poll, the largest statewide survey of registered voters, sampled 1,537 California voters from Oct. 22-29, 2014 and includes a significant oversample of Latino voters as well as one of the most robust cell phone samples in the state. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

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Californians say they want change but still approve of Sens. Boxer and Feinstein

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