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California Voter Sentiment Changing?


Californian’s are down on their nation and their state. What changes would shift voter sentiment with government?

GLORIA PENNER (Host): This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner. I’m at the roundtable today with Barbara Bry of and Andrew Donohue from and David Rolland from San Diego CityBeat and you. Well, the pollsters are busy these days, beginning to take the pulse of the people in this election year. California’s heartbeat is particularly erratic as the president’s star loses some luster, the governor and state legislature are struggling, and contests for governor and U.S. Senate are looking tight already. So, Barbara, two major research groups have released their surveys recently, the Field Poll and the Public Policy Institute of California, so let’s start with attitudes toward the president and the congress. Are Californians cutting them any slack?

BARBARA BRY (Associate Publisher/Opinion Editor, Well, I mean, Californians, a majority of Californians still like what Obama is doing. I mean, his approval rating has dropped nationally and it’s dropped in California but, you know, 56% of them still think Obama’s doing a good job.

PENNER: As opposed to…?

BRY: As opposed to…?

PENNER: Last time it was like 68…

BRY: It was 65%...


BRY: …last March. So – But, you know what, you know, there’s been – there’s issues. What’s interesting when you ask them about specific issues, then you really get into some interesting numbers. When you talk about – ask them about healthcare, 53% of them disapprove of how Obama is handling healthcare yet 44% approve of how he’s doing with the economy. 47% of them approve of what he’s doing with Afghanistan and 48% approve of how he’s handling the war on terror.

PENNER: What does that all mean to you?

BRY: What it means – Well, I think first of all, probably Californians are more supportive of Obama than many other parts of the country. I think healthcare stands out to me because that’s something that affects – they perceive that it will affect their pocketbook in some way, so that’s where they’re most concerned and – But, still, I mean, you know, it’s not like 80% of them disapprove of what Obama’s doing with healthcare.

PENNER: But, Andrew, compared to, let’s say, the way that other presidents have scored in the year after they were elected, don’t you get a sense that Obama is really doing worse than, let’s say, George H.W. Bush did, or Bill Clinton did, or George W. Bush did?

ANDREW DONAHUE (Editor, I don’t know. I don’t have the numbers to comment on that.

PENNER: We didn’t send you the numbers?

DONAHUE: Well, I may not have remembered them, I guess.


DONAHUE: I mean, I – You know, let’s stop and take a look at what’s going on. Unemployment is bad.

PENNER: Umm-hmm.

DONAHUE: The economy’s horrible. We’re still in two wars. I mean, he was only going to have the ‘he’s not Bush,’ you know, honeymoon for only so long. So I think we have to look a little bit more at, you know, at the bigger picture. You know, he’s going to have four years here. But what I found interesting when I looked at the Field Poll was that it seemed that a lot of the support or a lot of the support that he had lost was actually among liberals and among Democrats, and I wonder if that has to do with the inability to actually get anything done on healthcare and I wonder if that has to do with his, you know, what he’s done in Afghanistan but I also wonder if that has any longterm ramifications? Are those people really going to support somebody else? Are they going to abandon the party? Or are they just unhappy with, you know, these specific measures? Everybody’s sort of looking at, you know, Massachusetts and is that a bellwether for other states? I think we have to look at that so far as a real isolated incident, that that was a really flawed candidate and there’s no evidence yet that that’s—that I’ve seen actually—that’s spreading here to California.

PENNER: Let me ask our listeners about that. Has your attitude toward President Obama and the congress changed in the year since he took office? Has the debate on healthcare changed your mind or has something else changed your mind or are you just where you were a year ago in your attitudes? Our number is 1-888-895-5727. David, what do you think about the attitude toward congress? Has it deteriorated?

DAVID ROLLAND (Editor, San Diego CityBeat): Yes, and Andrew is absolutely right that it has everything to do with the economy. I mean, the old – well, the not-so-old saying, you know, it’s the economy, stupid, is just about the truest thing that’s ever been said about American politics. Whenever you have a new president in an off year, you’re going to – that president loses seats in congress. But you add, you know, one of the worst economies in decades and it’s just going to be even worse certainly. But, you know, following polls kind of on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis is a little bit of a fool’s errand, as Andy was kind of alluding to. It all comes down to a choice on election day. You have a choice between, you know, two people and, you know, more and more they tend to be two people that are a little more, you know, more and more extreme as we move along here. So the idea that somebody could vote for Barack Obama one year and then turn around and vote for, you know, Romney, Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin or someone like that is a little nutty.

PENNER: Well, we’re going to talk about that a little more as we go along. We also want to look at attitudes toward the governor and the state legislature. But let’s hear from Alex in San Diego now. Alex, you’re on with the editors.

ALEX (Caller, San Diego): Hi. Your previous guest just stole my comment. I mean, you know, when it comes to November, you know, that’s when it counts, in fact. And when November comes, you know, they’ll show a few commercials on TV and most people believe what they see no matter what. You know, people, especially in California, they seem to have a – you know, they forget stuff pretty quickly, you know, it’s just, you know all these – For example, all the taxations in the state of California, car registration. (unintelligible) governor (unintelligible) into power. And, you know, as more, you know, California registration’s more, all the taxes are more, parkings, land, you have to pay more for everything. And people don’t – And people forget why you have all these building and in November they see a couple of, you know, advertisings and they’re like, oh, I like this guy, he has a better advertising. Or, oh, I hate that guy because, you know, on that one advertising, that had a negative comment on it.

PENNER: Okay. Thank you, Alex. I appreciate that. Can just the results of these polls and those polls that are going to be coming out, Barbara, change people’s votes?

BRY: No, Gloria, I don’t think so. And actually one of the most interesting things I thought was in the Field Poll where 79% of Californian – California voters said they thought the state was on the wrong track. That was astounding to me. Yet only 49% of them felt the country was on the wrong track. So they’re much more concerned and negative about their own – or, we’re more negative about our own state than we are about the country. And…

PENNER: What would account for that?

BRY: What would account? Well, I think the state – it’s closer to us, you know, it’s been more – you know, it’s very much in the news what’s going on in the state legislature, tax cuts, I mean, spending cuts. You know, your children are in school, you’re seeing increased size in the classroom, it’s much more apparent to you in your daily life what’s going on in the state than…

DONAHUE: And it might be a bigger mess than…

PENNER: Andrew.

DONAHUE: …the actual federal government, too.

ROLLAND: That’s exactly it. And the federal government can print money and the state government can’t.

BRY: Yes, right, they cannot go – The state government cannot – has to balance its budget, cannot, you know, cannot – doesn’t have a federal reserve bank to print money.

ROLLAND: And we can’t bal – we can’t, you know, we can’t do a budget unless we get like, you know, almost all the, you know, lawmakers to agree, well, 67%. I like to exaggerate a little bit. But we can’t pass taxes, we can’t pass a budget, you know, it’s – it’s…


ROLLAND: …the state is paralyzed.

PENNER: All right, so let me follow up with you on that, David. In California what changes would shift people from dissatisfaction with their government?

ROLLAND: Personally, I think changing the threshold to pass a budget would do a lot. That way, if you – if the state wants to put in a bunch of Democrats and see if they can effectively govern the state, then they will govern like Democrats and we will see if their policies work or not. But when they have to – when they basically have to pull Republicans to their side in order to pass a budget, you know, you just – you don’t get any kind of change at all. You’re – you know, you just basically continue to get the status quo.

PENNER: All right, let’s go back to the telephones. Duke in San Diego is with us. Hi, Duke, you’re on with the editors.

DUKE (Caller, San Diego): Hi. I’m on speaker phone in the car so I apologize for – if it doesn’t come over…

PENNER: Go ahead.

DUKE: …very clearly.

PENNER: It’s fine.

DUKE: But I’m an Independent and I didn’t vote for Obama but I, you know, I fully support him and asking that we should all give—maybe making a comment—that we should all give him enough time to basically right the ship because, you know, the economy took a long time for it to get into this state. People are being irresponsible in all levels from personal all the way up to government so it’s going to take some time for him to correct it and we need to give him that time and we need to look at ourselves and be responsible for ourselves as well.

PENNER: Okay, thank you very much. And I want to really nod now in the direction of the governor and the governor’s race. I think that’s really an important thing because we’re going to have to vote in June in the primary. And let’s look at the matchups for governor and U.S. Senate. It’s true that polls are a snapshot of the moment but multi-millionaire Meg Whitman is clearly ahead in the Republican race for the party’s nomination and Jerry Brown, the Democrat, hasn’t even announced yet for governor. If this is decided on the basis of party in California, is it a slam dunk, Barbara, that Jerry Brown will be the next governor?

BRY: Well, if it’s decided on the basis of party, Jerry Brown will win in November. But Californians are an independent group. I mean, we elected Ronald Reagan as governor. We elected Pete Wilson as governor. We elected George Deukmejian as governor. So we have had a lot of – We elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. So I think a moderate Republican, which Meg Whitman is trying to portray herself as, can win for governor. I would never underestimate Jerry Brown. I feel like my life has come full circle. I joined the Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau in 1976 when Jerry Brown was governor. And to see him running for governor again, I can’t believe it.

PENNER: Okay, well, let’s talk about that a little bit, Andrew. How important are Independents going to be as the wild card in any of these races? Will they actually keep us guessing until we get into the polling booth?

DONAHUE: You know, I am not an expert on state politics, so I’m going to pass on the actual question of whether or not Independents are going to play a huge role, but…

PENNER: Do you have an opinion?

DONAHUE: …I – I do not. And I will say that – the idea that you can – People try to pigeonhole California as some sort of, you know, liberal, you know, liberal heaven or something like that. I mean, this is a state that, yeah, while it did vote for Barack Obama, it also voted for Prop 8 in the same exact election. So I’ve never figured it out and I don’t know that I will.

PENNER: All right, Robin in Encinitas is with us now. Hi, Robin, you’re on with the editors.

ROBIN (Caller, Encinitas): Hi. I was speaking to your question about people who voted for Obama and how we felt about how he’s doing and it is very interesting, the mixed reaction. Personally, I try to understand that these things take a long time to fix but at a policy level, I don’t really perceive an initiation towards the kind of change – I’m a small businessperson who lost my business last year due to the California economy. And I lost my health insurance because I couldn’t afford the premiums anymore. So, you know, I look at that and I can’t get a small business loan to start a new business because of the credit tightening. Meanwhile, the big banks, you know, and all of those bailouts have continued to help, you know, the upper income people. You know, they’re not suffering. They’re not losing like this. Maybe they have to, what, give up their Ferrari but, you know, this health insurance is a really, really big deal to some of us who don’t…


ROBIN: …you know – and small business is a really big deal because when there aren’t any jobs and people need to become more entrepreneurial and rely on themselves and be responsible for themselves, you know, it’s very difficult…

PENNER: Thank you very much, Robin. I’m afraid we’re just about out of time. I want to give the editors a chance to make some very brief comments, at least some of the editors. Let me start with David on this, some key contests have already been lost by Democrats and one by Republicans, Virginia, Massachusetts. Do you see this as a sign that change is in the air, David?

ROLLAND: Like I said earlier, change is always in the air in an off year election. The party in power tends to lose seats and, you know, you – I don’t – I reject, you know, a lot of the reasons that people are throwing around about what happened in Massachusetts so, yeah, it’s – change is always in the air at a time like this.

PENNER: All right, final comment. I’m going to turn to Barbara on this one. Final comment, Barbara. Refer to the question I asked about Independents.

BRY: Yes, I think Independents are going to be crucial in the state election and you – they’re both, the U.S. Senate race between Barbara Boxer and either Tom Campbell or – and Carly – Well, it would either be Tom Campbell or Carly Fiorina. That’s going to be close. And the election between Jerry Brown and probably Meg Whitman will be very close.

PENNER: Thank you very much, Barbara Bry. Thank you also to David Rolland and to Andrew Donahue and thanks to our callers and our listeners. This has been the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.

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