Jerry Brown’s approval rating is strong, but reelect numbers are weak

November 11, 2013

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is considering running for an unprecedented fourth term. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

After an ambitious legislative session and heading into an election year, California voters broadly approve of Gov. Jerry Brown’s job performance, according to a new survey — but they’re less sold on whether to give Brown an unprecedented fourth term in office.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll [pdf] of 1,350 likely voters shows 56 percent approve of Brown’s job performance, while 33 percent disapprove. Sixty percent of moderate voters said they approve of Brown, and his rating is strong among Latino voters, where he notches a 61 percent score. Just 20 percent of Latinos say they disapprove.

But just 34 percent of likely California voters said they would definitely or probably vote to reelect Brown, while 37 percent said they would probably or definitely vote for someone new. Forty-two percent of white voters said they would vote for a new candidate, 10 points higher than the number of Latino voters who are looking for a change.

Voters don’t view Brown’s performance on specific issues as favorably as they do his overall performance. More voters said they disapproved of Brown’s job performance on education, crime, gun policy, taxes, illegal immigration, the state budget deficit and the economy than approved.

Fifty percent of Californians said the economy has not begun to improve. Among those who said the economy is getting better, just 19 percent credit Brown’s policies, while 27 percent said it was due to the state legislature coming together to pass new laws.

Brown has not yet said whether he will run for reelection. He has already set the record as California’s longest-serving governor after surpassing Republican Earl Warren earlier this year. If he does seek a fourth term, Brown can tap the more than $13 million he has already raised. Later this month, Brown will hold a mega fundraiser with major Hollywood donors at the home of Cindy and Alan Horn, in Bel-Air.

The poll highlights the divergent views Latino voters and whites take on immigration. More than three quarters of Latino voters, 77 percent, said they supported a measure passed by the legislature and signed by Brown this year that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain a state driver’s license; just 40 percent of whites said they supported the measure, while 57 percent were opposed. Nearly two thirds of Latino voters said they support allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a law license, while 68 percent of white voters said they were opposed.

Latino voters were much more likely to support measures prohibiting law enforcement officials from turning over undocumented nonviolent offenders to federal officials for deportation, and to allow non-citizens to perform some poll worker duties, like providing language assistance.

California’s demographic makeup has changed dramatically in recent decades; it is one of four states where whites are not a majority of the population. And the rate of change is only likely to accelerate: 29 percent of Latinos who participated in the poll were younger than 30 years old, while 30 percent of all whites in the sample were over 65.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, between Oct. 30 and Nov. 5.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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