Californians Optimistic about Jerry Brown, State’s Future

Jerry Brown California Flag (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
Reed Saxon / Associated Press
Newport Beach, CA

California Governor Jerry Brown is in a strong position to pursue his agenda for the next three years, with the latest Field Poll showing registered voters giving him a 56 percent approval rating, and $24 million left in his campaign account.

Most voters told the independent and non-partisan Field Poll survey that Brown has the “right experience” to deal with the problems facing California and that he has the “vision to lead the state forward into the future.”

Although voters credit him for reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, voters have mixed views about whether he is doing enough to help the average resident, and think Brown favors too many big government projects that California state cannot afford.

Part of Brown’s positive image is due to the fact that there continue to be two Californias. About 50 percent of voters, led by Democrats and coastal county voters, believe the state is headed in the right direction. However, 42 percent of voters, led by Republicans and inland voters, believe California is “on the wrong track.”

With the economy in shambles in 2009, former two-term governors Republican Terry Branstad in Iowa, Democrat John Kitzhaber in Oregon, and Democrat Jerry Brown in California came out of retirement to win back their old seats in the 2010 election cycle.

Since being re-elected after a 30-year hiatus, the Field Poll reveals that Brown has never had a month in his latest 6 years in office that his disapproval rating exceeded his approval rating.

Most politicians see their support wither as they become a political “lame duck.” But the last twelve months have been the most positive for Brown, who averages 56 percent approval to just 30 percent disapproval.

In fact, the governor seems to be acquiring more political muscle with age. He’s more focused, patient and selective than when he served two entertaining-but-undisciplined terms in the 1970s and early ’80s.

An expected three quarters of Democrats believe that Brown has the right experience to deal with the problems facing California, but 71 percent of independents and a surprising 42 percent of Republicans also agree.

Despite Brown’s popularity, 56 percent of voters believe he favors “too many big government projects the state cannot afford right now.” Over three quarters of Republicans agree with the statement, as do 52 percent of independents and a surprising 45 percent of Democrats.

About 45 percent of voters agree that Brown is “not doing enough to help the average Californian.” About 56 percent of Republicans agree with the statement, so do 41 percent of independents and a surprising 42 percent of Democrats.

California voters were extremely concerned with the plight of the state when Brown was inaugurated in January 2010. Only 13 percent of California voters, the worst in 60 years of Field polling, thought the state was headed in the right direction. The state was facing an $11.2 billion budget deficit, had been furloughing workers, and the state’s unfunded pension liability was over $400 billion.

Voters seem to appreciate Brown’s response. He raised taxes like a Democrat, but also played hardball with public employee demands like a Republican. Six years later, California’s credit rating has been twice upgraded by Moody’s Investor Services to a strong Aa3 and Brown is building a “rainy-day fund” budget reserve.