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Latest Field Poll gauges pulse of California voters

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

Despite some modest gains in positive sentiment from California’s voters in certain areas, the latest Field poll indicates that the state still has a long road ahead on the path to recovery.

Party-aligned voters weighed in on Governor Brown’s performance. As expected, party sentiment is polarized when it comes to evaluating him. 64% of Democrats said that they approve of the governor’s  performance while 20% disapprove. Among Republicans, 59% disapprove of the governor’s performance while 24% approve.

Interestingly enough- among those not identifying with any party- slightly more unaffiliated voters disapprove of the California governor according to the latest survey.  Sentiment about him within this circle is just about evenly split- 39% approve and 42% disapprove.

Ideological groups reflect a similar pattern found among party-aligned voters. The poll found that more conservative voters tend to rate Brown very negatively while those that identify as more liberal tended to hold the opposite sentiment. The same pattern was seen with liberal and conservative moderates as well.

There is some good news for Governor Brown among those ideologically classifying themselves as middle-of-the-road voters- 47% approve of the governor while only 31% disapprove. Also noted by Field is that there are relatively high percentages of voters who aren’t able to offer an opinion of his performance- in the 16% to 19% range.

Among California’s voters overall, the governor holds a 45% approval to 38% disapproval edge. Since March 2011, however, Brown’s approval rating has slipped in the course of Field’s four previous surveys on the matter.

Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisans also all overwhelmingly continue to give the legislature a poor job performance rating. Overall, one in five Californians continues to give it very poor marks. In other words, only 22% of the state’s voters approve of the job that lawmakers are doing. Field notes that voters have been highly negative of the legislature for the past four years and have given them more negative marks than positive in the last ten years.

On the issue of a part-time legislature, Republicans and non-partisans side together pretty closely. Support from the former is 49% and the latter is at 45%. Democrats, by a majority, oppose the idea. Overall, 45% of voters oppose the measure while 39% support it.

Looking ahead, despite an eleven point increase in the number of voters who think the state is going in the right direction, there’s still  62% who say that California is going in the wrong direction. On this issue, large majorities of Republicans and non-partisans agree that the state is on the wrong track while Democrats are more split on the issue.

One significant takeaway from these latest findings is that voters aligned with either of the two parties continue to recognize that- under the current political leadership- the Golden State is headed down the wrong path. If that's not admitted explicitly, it's certainly a result that's observed in this and in other surveys.

Another takeaway is that non-partisan voters, and even the ones classified middle-of-the-road, are becoming more of a part of the conversation about California’s future. The noted rise of Independents, along with the decline of the two major parties in California, should certainly challenge lawmakers to get their acts together and produce legitimate results.

This latest Field survey was conducted February 2-18, 2012 among a random sample of 1,003 registered voters in California. Interviewing was conducted by telephone. Some questions were asked to a random sample of 488 or 515 voters. The maximum sampling error for the overall samples was +/- 3.1% and had a 95% confidence level.

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