Field Poll: Brown on a roll

Voter approval of the job that Democrat Jerry Brown is doing as Governor has reached a new high. At present, 59% of registered voters approve of his performance in office, nearly twice the proportion (32%) who disapprove.

Brown also holds a huge preference lead when likely voters in the June open primary election are asked whom they would support if the election were being held today. When listed with three Republicans, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, Laguna Hills Mayor and businessman Andrew Blount and businessman Neel Kashkari, Brown is the choice of 57%. Donnelly places a distant second at 17%. No other candidate receives more than 3% of voter preferences.

These are the results of the Brown poll completed among a statewide random sample of 1,000 registered voters, of whom 504 were considered likely voters in the upcoming June primary.

The current survey represents the thirteenth time The Field Poll has asked California voters to offer their opinions of Brown’s performance since winning election in 2010 to what is now his third stint as Governor. A review of voter opinions over this period shows that Brown’s approval ratings ranged narrowly between 43% and 49% throughout 2011 and 2012, but since then have moved higher. The current survey finds 59% of voters registering a positive appraisal of his performance in office, while 32% disapprove. 

Three-fourths of Democratic voters (76%) and 60% of independents approve of Brown’s performance. Even among registered Republicans more than one out of three (35%) give Brown a positive rating.

In this year’s June open primary election, candidates from all parties – Democrats, Republicans and others – will be listed together on one ballot and voters can choose to vote for a candidate from any party. The two candidates who receive the most votes will then proceed to the November general election, regardless of party. 

Voters will face a long list of fifteen candidates on the 2014 gubernatorial primary ballot. When likely voters in the June primary are asked whom they would prefer if the election for governor were being held today, Brown, at 57%, leads the field by a wide margin. Donnelly is in second place at 17%. Well back, receiving 3% and 2% respectively, are Blount and Kashkari. Another 1% of voters support other candidates and 20% are undecided.

Brown is favored by big margins among voters across virtually all voter subgroups. The Governor is preferred by overwhelming majorities of Democrats (87%), liberals (96%), independents (66%), middle-of-the-road voters (67%) and voters who do not identify with the Tea Party political movement (81%). Brown also holds impressive leads regardless of a voter’s gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, region, homeowner – renter status, and among voters living in both union and non-union households. 

The only voter blocs where Brown is not currently favored are Republicans, conservatives and Tea Party identifiers, where Donnelly holds the advantage.

Brown’s image among likely voters is very well defined and is largely positive. Virtually all voters (96%) offer an opinion, with 61% having a favorable view and 35% viewing him negatively. Brown is held in high regard by nearly nine in ten Democrats (88%). By contrast, Republicans view the Governor more negatively than positively by a 63% to 33% margin.

Large segments, between 50% and 71% of likely voters, cannot offer an opinion of Brown’s main Republican challengers. Half of voters (50%) offer an impression of Donnelly and his image among these voters is about evenly divided, with 26% holding a favorable view and 24% an unfavorable view. Republican voters are very positive about Donnelly, with 47% holding a favorable impression and 8% an unfavorable opinion. However, Donnelly’s image is more than two-to-one negative among voters outside the Republican Party.

Blount is not as well known, with just 29% of likely voters offering an impression. His image among these voters is also evenly split, with 15% having a favorable opinion and 14% an unfavorable opinion. Republicans who are able to rate Blount tend to view him positively, while Democrats and non-partisans hold a more negative than positive view.

Only about one in three likely voters (36%) has an opinion of Kashkari. Among these voters 16% view him positively and 20% negatively. Kashkari’s image is also highly partisan, with Republicans generally viewing him favorably and Democrats mostly having a negative impression. Non- partisans are evenly divided.

Brown, who is 75, is now the longest serving Governor in California history measured by cumulative service. Prior to his current term, Brown also served as Governor between the period 1975-83.
One consequence of the 28-year gap between his second and third terms is that Brown has been both the youngest and oldest California governor since 1863.

Ed’s Note : This Field Poll was completed March 18-April 5, 2014 among a random sample of 1,000 registered voters in California, including 504 voters considered likely to vote in the June 2014 open primary election. In order to cover a broad range of issues and still minimize possible voter fatigue, the candidate image questions cited in this report were asked of a random subsample of 243 likely voters statewide. 


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