Poll: Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval rating rises

Gov. Jerry Brown has a higher approval rating than at any time since he took office in 2011, according to a new University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll.

The poll found 55 percent of registered voters approve of the job Brown is doing as governor; that’s up from 49 percent in September 2012 and 50 percent in June of this year. This latest poll shows 33 percent disapprove.

The poll of 1,503 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint; the full sample has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats like Brown best – 78 percent approval to 11 percent disapproval – but independents like him solidly as well, 68 percent to 22 percent. Republicans disapprove heavily: 68 percent, while only 22 percent approve.

Brown has tremendous support among minority voters – 67 percent to 9 percent among black voters, 65 percent to 17 percent among Asian-American voters, and 61 percent to 20 percent among Latino voters – while the white vote is somewhat more split, 51 percent approval to 41 percent disapproval.

Even so, 49 percent of all voters surveyed said California is pretty seriously on the wrong track, while 37 percent said things in the state are going in the right direction. Unhappiness with the state’s direction is highest among Republicans (79 percent), while 59 percent of nonpartisan voters say it’s on the wrong track and only 27 percent of Democrats feel that way.

“It’s impressive that Brown’s approval has increased at a time when perception of politicians are generally at historic lows,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. “The government shutdown tends to reflect on all politicians at all levels, but I think Governor Brown has built some insulation from that. This data shows Brown with a strong foundation and a solid core, but also with some work left to do.”

Indeed, the poll shows that even though Brown’s favorability continues to rise, it’s too early for voters to pronounce his re-election chances a slam dunk. Only 32 percent said they would pick him again for the job, while 37 percent said they would elect someone else.

Lots more, after the jump…

Broken down further, 17 percent of voters said they would “definitely” re-elect Brown and 15 percent said they would “probably” re-elect him. In comparison, 27 percent of voters said they would “definitely” vote for someone else and 10 percent said they would “probably” voter for someone else. And 20 percent said their vote will depend on who a gubernatorial challenger is, while 10 percent were undecided.

“Jerry Brown has made less effort to establish a public media presence in California than any governor in almost a quarter of a century,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and of USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics. “The result of that relatively low profile is that voters don’t leap to directly associate him with either specific public policy challenges or their broader concerns about the state. A Democratic governor in a Democratic state who hasn’t shut down the government or messed up Obamacare roll out is good enough.”

Two Republicans – conservative Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and moderate former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado – are campaigning to replace Brown, but Schnur said the GOP shouldn’t take solace in this poll’s results. “If the same question had paired Brown against a Republican challenger, we probably would have seen significantly different results,” he said.

Californians were more divided when asked about how Brown is doing on individual issues. He got higher marks for environmental issues (50 percent approval to 30 percent disapproval), crime (46-37), education (45-41), health care (44-36), immigration (43-38) and energy (42-29).

But disapproval reigned on Brown’s handling of the economy and jobs (47 percent disapproval to 42 percent approval); the state’s budget deficit (47-38); taxes (44-42); illegal immigration (44-34); prisons (44-31); and gun policy (41-28).

“Brown is negative on pocket book issues, such as the economy, jobs and taxes, but he’s strong on social and cultural issues such as the environment, energy and immigration. What’s keeping Brown afloat is the Democratic leanings in the state, specifically on issues that Democrats are really energized about like the environment and immigration,” said David Kanevsky, American Viewpoint’s research director.

The poll found 41 percent of voters credited improvements in the state’s economy to national and international forces beyond Sacramento’s control, while 27 percent credited the Legislature for working together more efficiently and 19 percent credited Brown’s policies.

But when asked what they felt was most responsible for the California economy not getting better, 46 percent blamed a dysfunctional Legislature, 29 percent blamed external forces and 15 percent blamed Brown.

Overall, 47 percent of Californians believe that the economy has bottomed out and is starting to improve; 27 percent say it has not yet bottomed out and has gotten worse; and 23 percent say it has reached the bottom and is not yet improving.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.