Analysis

Voters like Brown, Feinstein, but also seek change

Gov. Brown at Hall of Fame ceremonies in Sacramento last year. (Photo: By Randy Miramontez)

California is a solid Democratic state, Republicans in the foreseeable future have little chance of winning a statewide office, and Democratic icons Jerry Brown and Dianne Feinstein are viewed more positively than negatively.

But voters still want change.

Brown, 79, in an unprecedented fourth term,  is termed out, so change will come. Feinstein, 84, is facing one of her toughest electoral challenges in more than 20 years, since she defeated Michael Huffington in a close 1994 Senate election.

Brown and Feinstein are two of the state’s longest-serving officials, but many of those surveyed are signaling that they want changes.

According to a  September poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, most Californians (55 percent) approve of the way Brown is handling his job, while 31 percent disapprove, and 15 percent are don’t know.

About half of Californians (49 percent) approve of Feinstein’s job performance, 36 percent disapprove, and 15 percent don’t know.

Brown and Feinstein are two of the state’s longest-serving officials, but many of those surveyed are signaling that they want changes.

Among adults, 47 percent would like a change to Brown’s policies, while 39 percent want to continue his policies and 14 percent are undecided.

For Feinstein, 46 percent do not think she should run, 41 percent say she should run and 13 percent are undecided.

Democratic strategist Darry Sragow, publisher of the California Target Book, believes these numbers reflect a crisis.  California, just like the country as a whole, still feels impacts from the Great Recession, and is dealing with income inequality, a critical statewide housing crisis and infrastructure issues.

“They don’t see that the government is addressing the problems in their life, such as no work or no prospect for their kids.” — Darry Sragow

“They are basically saying that the government is an institution that they expect to protect them in these tumultuous times, (but) is not doing their job,” said Sragow.  “They don’t want government to keep fiddling while the place burns down and they are the ones paying the price for that.”

Sragow continues, “The disconnect between all the institutions that are a part of government in this rapid upheaval and change is so profound it’s a mistake to think they want a change in the players.  It’s that they look at government in its entirety as an institution that they pay for and they don’t see that the government is addressing the problems in their life, such as no work or no prospect for their kids.”

Dave Metz, a pollster with FM3, believes this discontent leads voters looking for anything different than politics as usual which was magnified in the last presidential election.

“Voters understand there are structural global and national forces that have impact here that state government can’t control.” — Dave Metz

“That feeling of frustration is what fueled Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and I am going to look for the biggest change I can find and there are some voters on the left and right that have moved in that direction,” said Metz.

Metz recognizes that voters will still continue to approve of Brown and Feinstein because they generally agree with them on current policy issues, but still yearn for a change and solutions that may be uncontrollable.

“The economy may be going well but people are worried about being able to be able to afford the day-to-day to cost of living and there is a sense that the middle class is struggling even though overall the economy is doing well,” said Metz.

“I don’t think the candidates running for governor can just flip a switch, but voters understand there are structural global and national forces that have impact here that state government can’t control.  The state government can guide the ship through the seas but can’t change the weather,” he added.

“A new leader should look at policies and if changes need to be done, change them.” — Eugene Bambic

A change in policies in the governor’s office may not signal disapproval with Brown, but one respondent in the poll who is supportive of Brown understands that new issues come up over the years and may require a change in policy.

“I think they should continue with Brown’s polices but any new governor should look to see if any new things need to be done,” said Eugene Bambic, a Mar Vista (Los Angeles) Democrat.  “Do I have any objection to anything he’s done?  I don’t think so.  A new leader should look at policies and if changes need to be done,  change them.”

The groups that would most like a change to Brown’s policies are Republicans (81 percent), Independents (55 percent), inland respondents (Inland Empire, 58 percent and Central Valley, 54 percent), African Americans (53 percent), ages 35-54 (54 percent), homeowners (53 percent), and some college education (53 percent).

Those that would like to see Brown’s polices continue, tend to be liberal groups, Democrats (58 percent), Bay Area (43 percent), ages 18-34 (45 percent), and college graduates (47 percent).  Among those groups that would like to see Feinstein run for re-election are Democrats (57 percent), African-Americans (55 percent), and Asian Americans (47 percent).

Among Republicans, 69 percent do not think Feinstein should run for reelection, as do 55 percent of independents

Feinstein fares poorly with Republicans as well, but not nearly as poorly as Brown, a testament to her political career, just left of center, but not too far left.  Among Republicans, 69 percent do not think she should run for reelection, as do 55 percent of independents, 53 percent of whites, 54 percent among adults with income over $80k, 51 percent of homeowners, and 51 percent of those with some college education.

Don, an independent from Murrieta who declined to give his last name, leans conservatively and doesn’t have very many nice things to say about Democrats, who he considers tax and spend liberals, including Feinstein most of the time.

But he recognizes her moderate positions at times.

“She’ll go against her party and will stick up for the military budget and every once a in a while she surprises me with what comes out of her mouth.  She doesn’t always follow the party line,” he said.

Ed’s Note: Writer Nik Bonovich, who specializes in California politics, is a regular contributor to Capitol Weekly.

 


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