University of Southern California

Election 2012

In Brief

California for Obama, Despite Gas Prices

March 26, 2012

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President Barack Obama’s job performance rating is at its highest among California voters since spring 2010, riding a wave of voter favorability on issues relating to the economy. This finding comes from the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll, the largest poll of registered voters in California.

Overall, 57 percent of California voters approved of the job being done by President Obama, an increase of seven points since the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted in November 2011. Thirty-eight percent of voters said they disapproved of the president’s job performance.

When polled on specific issues, voters in the state favorably rated the president’s approach to many economic issues, including jobs (53 percent to 43 percent), the economy (51 percent to 47 percent) and taxes (50 percent to 45 percent).

A further breakdown shows that favorability ratings for the president’s performance on jobs was 58 percent to 39 percent for Latino voters, and 51 percent to 45 percent for white voters. When it comes to the economy, Latino voters approved 53 percent to 46 percent, while white voters were split, with 48 percent disapproving and 50 percent approving. On taxes, Latino voters approved of the president’s performance 49 percent to 44 percent; white voters disapproved by a narrow margin, with 47 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving.

“Barack Obama carried this state by a wide margin four years ago, and this poll suggests he’s in a strong position to carry California again this November,” says Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and director of the poll. “Voters here are beginning to feel better about the state’s economic future, and that optimism is working toward the president’s benefit.”

Voters also approved of the president’s approach to women’s health. Of the voters who gave President Obama positive marks on women’s health, 71 percent were registered Democrats, 28 percent were registered Republicans, and 59 percent declined to state their party affiliation. Altogether, 26 percent of voters strongly approved of his performance and 29 percent approved somewhat.

On health care in general, 52 percent of voters approved of the job President Obama is doing, and 44 disapproved. Twenty-seven percent of California voters strongly approved of the president’s performance on health care, and 25 percent approved somewhat.

On other issues, Californians were not as impressed with the president’s performance. Fifty-three percent of voters disapproved of his handling of the federal deficit, and 46 percent of voters disapproved of his performance on immigration issues.

President Obama’s performance was rated the lowest among California voters when it came to the issue of high gas prices. Sixty-two percent of voters rated his performance unfavorably, with 47 percent of Latino voters and 43 percent of white voters saying they strongly disapproved of the president’s handling of the situation.

“Gasoline prices would probably have to hit $20 a gallon to put Obama in serious trouble here in California,” Schnur says. “But if voters in a deep-blue state like this one are that unhappy with the way he’s handling this issue, it should be a big warning to what his campaign is going to have to deal with in Ohio or Florida.”

Overall, 62 percent of Californians had a favorable view of the president. Along party lines, President Obama was rated favorably by 91 percent of self-identified Democrats, 55 percent of self-identified independents, and 20 percent of self-identified Republicans.

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