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Californians give Schwarzenegger, Legislature poor performance reviews

The governor gets a 33% approval rating, lawmakers 21%, according to a new poll. However, 70% like the way President Obama does his job.

February 26, 2009|Michael Finnegan

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's popularity sank this month as the state budget crisis worsened, but Californians overwhelmingly approve of President Obama's job performance, according to a new poll.

Schwarzenegger's dismal ratings come amid a conservative backlash over $12.5 billion in tax hikes that he pressured fellow Republican lawmakers to join Democrats in passing last week.

Conservatives, once the bulwark of his support, disapprove of Schwarzenegger's job performance now by nearly 2 to 1, according to the poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

Overall, just 33% of California adults give Schwarzenegger a positive job rating, barely above the record low of 32% that he hit in 2005 after pushing a package of failed ballot measures in a special election. As recently as January, Schwarzenegger's favorable job rating was at 40%.

Faring worse is the state Legislature: Its 21% approval rating matches the record low it set in several previous polls.

The bad economy -- and the unpopular moves it has forced upon state governments nationwide -- has made it a tough environment this year for elected officials.

"It's been particularly hard for the governor and Legislature because of their prolonged and difficult struggle to get the budget resolved," pollster Mark Baldassare, president of the policy institute, said of Schwarzenegger and California lawmakers.

Obama, however, is enjoying a honeymoon with Californians as he grapples with one of the worst economic crises in modern history: 70% approve of his job performance, significantly above the 61% who voted for him in November.

Solid majorities of Democrats and independents give Obama favorable job ratings. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, rich, poor, young and old strongly approve of the way he has handled the presidency.

Republicans, however, are split, with 41% approving and 40% disapproving. Still, even 53% of conservatives give Obama a favorable job rating.

The telephone survey of 2,502 California adults took place from Feb. 3-17. Its margin of sampling error was plus or minus two percentage points.

Much of the poll focused on abortion, birth control and population growth. The survey was conducted with financial support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which advocates abortion rights. But the foundation, Baldassare said, had no say in selecting the survey's questions or drafting its findings.

Support for abortion rights in California remains strong, the survey found. Two out of three Californians oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

A few responses indicated a slight erosion in opposition to restrictions on abortion. Baldassare suggested the shift results partly from California's growing population of Latinos, many Catholics who have moral objections to abortion.

In a finding that seemed to clash with recent election results, the poll found that 68% of Californians would favor a law requiring parental notification before a minor can get an abortion. Since 2005, California voters have narrowly rejected three ballot measures to enact such a law.

Baldassare said it appeared that Democrats who in principle favor parental notification tend to oppose such ballot measures in the partisan context of an election campaign.

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michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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