Field Poll: Amid turmoil, Obama’s approval remains strong in California

06/24/2014 12:00 AM

10/22/2014 2:14 PM

Despite political fallout from his prisoner exchange, the unfolding scandal in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and growing unrest in the Middle East, President Barack Obama has maintained encouraging job ratings in California, where he’s buoyed by a scarcity of Republicans, according to the new Field Poll.

Half of California voters support the president’s job performance, with 39 percent disapproving. The figures released Tuesday contrast sharply with the nationwide average that shows 42 percent approving and 54 percent expressing an unfavorable opinion.

Obama’s approval rating here has held steady since dropping 10 percentage points – to 52 percent – over a five-month period ending last July. The record-high of 65 percent was approached only by a “second honeymoon” following his re-election two years ago, said Mark DiCamillo, the poll’s director.

While the bloom has worn off a bit, in only 2 of 19 surveys has Obama’s approval percentage fallen below 50 percent. That can largely be attributed to the Democratic Party’s strong advantage in registered voters as well as the state’s diverse ethnic composition.

“Here in California, you see the same very partisan views of Obama, but we just have more Democrats,” DiCamillo said. “You see white, non-Hispanics generally viewing him negatively, but that’s a smaller chunk of the public than in most other areas of the country because we have large numbers of Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans, collectively. And it’s those voters that are much more positive about Obama.”

Although nearly 80 percent of Republicans disapprove of the president, 76 percent of Democrats approve. Latinos, Asians and African Americans all rate him favorably by wide margins – from 53 percent up to 84 percent.

The survey comes amid turmoil at home and abroad, including intensifying questions and condemnation of the president over his decision to swap five Taliban detainees in return for the U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Meantime, his administration is challenged by the radical Sunni Muslim group advancing in Iraq. Indeed, Obama’s relatively strong ratings in California are modest for this point in his second term when compared to the opinions voters had of former Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Duane Roth, 48, of Acampo in San Joaquin County is a registered Democrat who supported Obama in his first run but didn’t vote last time. Roth, who is unemployed, said many of the country’s problems, such as the slow-moving economy, are chiefly the fault of Congress. The former general contractor said he is frustrated with the overall lack of cooperation.

“We are all moving in the wrong direction – from the president to me,” Roth said.

The same poll found that just 12 percent approve of Congress’ performance, a number close to the average of the last dozen surveys going back about four years. However, unlike the California-national divide over the president, the figures largely mirror the latest average of national polls on federal lawmakers that show only 13 percent of Americans approve of their performance.

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