The View From California: Approval of Political Leaders

September 4, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Approval Rating | California | US Politics
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Since the 1990s, California has been considered a solidly ‘blue’ state, with the Democratic nominees for President receiving a majority of the vote in every election since 1992. Most recently, Joe Biden carried the state with 63.48% of the vote in 2020. The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that, seven months into his term, President Biden continues to enjoy substantial support from the Californian public.

Currently, 55% approve and 27% disapprove of Joe Biden’s overall job performance since he became President of the United States, placing his net approval rating at +28%. A further 14% say they neither approve nor disapprove. 

A majority of all age groups approve of President Biden’s performance thus far, with the exception of 45-to-54-year-olds, 47% of whom approve and 31% of whom disapprove. Meanwhile, approval is strongest among those aged 65 and above, with almost two-thirds (64%) of this demographic expressing that they approve of Biden’s performance. 

Californians’ approval of the President appears closely related to the way they voted in the 2020 Presidential Election, with 82% of Joe Biden voters and 13% of Donald Trump voters approving of Biden’s performance. Conversely, 69% of Trump voters disapprove.

Beyond generally approving of President Joe Biden’s overall performance, Californians also convey substantial approval of the Administration’s actions in specific policy areas as well. Majorities or pluralities of respondents approve of the Administration’s performance with respect to the coronavirus pandemic (57%), the economy (49%), addressing unemployment (45%), and the environment (43%). Approval is less widespread but still the plurality position for crime/policing (36%), housing (35%), relations with Russia (35%), defence (35%), and relations with China (32%).

A consistent quarter to a third of Californians say they disapprove of the Joe Biden Administration’s performance in each of the given policy areas, with the exception of immigration—the only area in which a plurality (40%) of respondents say they disapprove. For 2020 Donald Trump voters, disapproval increases to 75% of the demographic, while a notable 21% of 2020 Joe Biden voters also say they disapprove of Biden’s performance on immigration. It therefore seems that immigration is the policy area in which the greatest number of Californians are dissatisfied with the current US Government, though the state on the whole appears largely content with the Biden Administration’s performance so far.

Our poll also surveyed Californians’ opinions of their Governor and Senators, all three of which are also members of the Democratic Party. After President Joe Biden, Governor Gavin Newsom has the next-highest net approval rating, at +17%, as 49% approve and 32% disapprove of Gavin Newsom’s performance since becoming Governor. Newsom, whose future as a Governor will soon be decided in the September 2021 Recall Election, elicits strong responses from both 2020 Joe Biden and Donald Trump voters, with 74% of the former demographic approving and 74% of the latter demographic disapproving of his performance.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has served in that capacity since 1992, has a considerably lower net approval rating, at +5%. Overall, 34% approve and 29% disapprove of Dianne Feinstein’s performance as Senator, with a further 29% neither approving nor disapproving. Disapproval of Feinstein is largely driven by 2020 Donald Trump voters, 60% of whom say they disapprove. 

Meanwhile, the state’s junior Senator enjoys a higher net approval rating (+12%), with 32% approving and 20% disapproving of the performance of Alex Padilla, who became a Senator when he filled Kamala Harris’ seat in January 2021. He will run for a full term in the 2022 Senate Elections. At the same time, a considerable third (33%) of respondents neither approve nor disapprove of Alex Padilla’s performance thus far. Compared to Senator Feinstein, a relatively smaller proportion (44%) of Donald Trump voters disapprove of Senator Padilla.

As multiple elections approach in California—including one in a matter of weeks—the state’s Democratic leaning is evident, with majorities or pluralities of respondents approving of the performances of President Joe Biden, Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Alex Padilla. Substantial proportions of Californians also approve of the Biden Administration’s performance in various policy areas, though immigration stands out as one area in which disapproval is somewhat heightened.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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