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Press Release · February 9, 2017

A Third of Californians Approve of Trump’s Job Performance

Views on Immigration, Health Care, Climate Change, Abortion at Odds with President

SAN FRANCISCO, February 9, 2017—Just a third of Californians approve of the way President Trump is doing his job, according to a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with funding from the James Irvine Foundation.

In the survey, taken January 22–31, the president’s job approval rating is 30 percent among California adults and 34 percent among likely voters. Majorities in both groups disapprove (58% all adults, 55% likely voters). There’s a strong partisan divide among Californians on this question: 72 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats approve of the president’s job performance. Approval is low across regions of the state. There are differences across racial/ethnic groups, with whites (39%) and Asian Americans (37%) twice as likely as Latinos (17%) and African Americans (15%) to approve. Californians overall are less likely to approve of President Trump than are adults nationwide (45% approve), according to a Gallup tracking poll from January 23–29.

Trump’s favorability rating is 33 percent among adults and 37 percent among likely voters. Most have an unfavorable opinion (60% adults, 59% likely voters), and about half in each group have a strongly unfavorable one. Slightly less than a third of Californians have confidence (15% great deal, 13% good amount) that the president will make the right decisions for the country’s future (26% just some confidence, 45% none at all).

“The California public’s early reviews of President Trump are generally negative,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “Yet they also demonstrate that the state’s voters have deep partisan divisions that are very much in line with national politics.”

Most Support State, Local Action on Immigration

As California leaders consider their responses to Trump’s early action on immigration, the survey asked whether state and local governments should make their own policies and take actions—separate from the federal government—to protect the legal rights of undocumented immigrants in California. A solid majority of adults (65%) and 58 percent of likely voters favor state and local action. Opinion differs widely across political parties: 80 percent of Democrats favor state and local government action, while 69 percent of Republicans oppose it. Majorities across regions and racial/ethnic groups are in favor.

Consistent with PPIC surveys over the past year, an overwhelming majority of Californians (85%) say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants to stay in the US legally if certain requirements are met. Strong majorities across parties hold this view (93% Democrats, 84% independents, 65% Republicans). Of those who say they voted for Trump, 61 percent say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay and 34 percent say they should not.

When Californians are asked to name the one issue facing the state that is most important for the governor and legislature to work on, immigration is tied with jobs and the economy as the top issue (14% adults, 13% likely voters). Last January, Californians said water and drought (17% adults, 18% likely voters) and jobs and the economy (16% adults, 19% likely voters) were most important.

A Slight Majority Oppose ACA Repeal

In the wake of Trump’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the survey asked Californians for their opinions of the 2010 health care law. Half (51% adults, 53% likely voters) view the law favorably (39% adults, 40% likely voters view it unfavorably). Californians are somewhat more likely to have favorable opinions of the law than were adults nationwide in a December Kaiser Family Foundation survey (43% favorable, 46% unfavorable). There are stark partisan differences: 77 percent of Democrats view the law favorably and 74 percent of Republicans view it unfavorably. Independents are more evenly divided but are more likely to view the law favorably (50%) than unfavorably (40%).

A slight majority of Californians (53%) oppose repealing the ACA. About a quarter (26%) say Congress should wait to repeal it until details of a replacement plan are announced, while 16 percent favor an immediate repeal. Across political parties, most Democrats (78%) and independents (57%) oppose repealing the ACA, while Republicans (80%) overwhelmingly favor it.

Strong Majority See Climate Change as Major Threat

The Trump administration’s approach to federal climate change policy appears likely to diverge from California’s. A strong majority of Californians (65%) say global climate change is a major threat to the well-being of the US (20% minor threat, 12% not a threat). Adults nationwide were much less likely to see climate change as a major threat in a January Pew Research Center survey (52% major, 32% minor, 14% not a threat). In the PPIC survey, Democrats (82%) are far more likely than independents (62%) and Republicans (27%) to say climate change is a major threat. A solid majority of Californians (63%) say they favor the state government making its own policies—separate from the federal government—to address global warming. Partisans are split: 77 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents, and just 30 percent of Republicans favor the state making its own policies. Republican support has dropped 19 points since last July.

Most across Parties Support Abortion Access

As Congress considers Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, abortion policy is an important issue in the debate. Most Californians (71%) say the government should not interfere with a woman’s access to abortion, while 27 percent say the government should pass more laws to restrict the availability of abortion. Since PPIC first asked this question in 2000, solid majorities of Californians have said the government should not interfere with access. Today, this view is held across parties (87% Democrats, 75% independents, 60% Republicans). Majorities of men and women and majorities across racial/ethnic, age, education, and income groups concur. Asked about the Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, 71 percent of Californians say they do not want to see the decision completely overturned. In PPIC surveys since 2005, at least 65 percent of Californians expressed this view.

“Californians’ policy preferences are deeply at odds with the new federal direction on abortion access, climate change, health insurance, and undocumented immigrants,” Baldassare said.

Most Approve of Supreme Court’s Job Performance

Most adults (57%) approve of the way the Supreme Court is handling its job. Independents (61%) are the most likely to approve, followed by Democrats (54%) and Republicans (49%). Asked about the ideology of the court, 20 percent say it is too liberal, 24 percent say it is too conservative, and 47 percent say it is just about right. Across parties, 48 percent of Republicans say it is too liberal, while 47 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of independents say it is just about right.

Approval Ratings for Congress Are Similar to Trump’s

Californians’ job approval ratings for Congress are similar to their ratings for Trump. Just a third of adults (33%) and a quarter of likely voters (25%) approve of the way Congress is doing its job. Democrats (19%) are much less likely than independents (35%) and Republicans (39%) to approve.

Although Republicans control the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, only about half of Californians (50% adults, 55% likely voters) say the president and Congress will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year. An overwhelming majority of Republicans (85%) and a majority of independents (56%) expect productive collaboration, compared to 34 percent of Democrats. The belief that the president and Congress will be able to accomplish a lot is down sharply from January 2009, when there was a Democratic president and Democratic-controlled Congress. Then, 81 percent of Californians—including 66 percent of Republicans—held this view.

Half of Californians (52%) think the nation will have good times financially in the next year. When they are asked about the direction of the nation, just 36 percent of adults and 37 percent of likely voters say the US is headed in the right direction.

Governor Brown, California Legislature Get High Ratings

When asked about state leaders, California adults and likely voters each give Governor Brown 62 percent job approval rating—a record high in PPIC Statewide Surveys. The legislature’s approval ratings—57 percent among all adults and 50 percent among likely voters—are the highest since 2001. A record-high 66 percent of adults and 64 percent of likely voters say the governor and legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year. About half of Californians (53% adults, 51% likely voters) say the state will have good times financially in the year ahead. Most (58% adults, 58% likely voters) say things in California are generally going in the right direction.

“Californians give much higher approval ratings to the governor and legislature than to the president and Congress today,” Baldassare said. “With starkly different views of the direction of the state and the nation, many Californians have hopes that the governor and legislature will be able to work together and keep the state on its current track.”

Fewer Than Half Support Brown’s Budget

When Brown proposed his 2017–18 budget, he estimated a $1.6 billion deficit for the state. Yet just 37 percent of Californians see the budget situation as a big problem—a record low since PPIC first asked the question in 2006. Brown’s plan includes modest spending increases in K–14 and higher education, health and human services, and prisons and corrections. It also calls for slowing spending growth in K–14 education and other areas, and putting $1.1 billion in the state rainy day fund. When read a short description of the plan, just under half of California adults (47%) and 43 percent of likely voters favor it.

Brown has proposed about $43 billion in additional spending over the next ten years to address a multibillion-dollar shortfall in funding for infrastructure improvements. Funding would come from a $65 fee on all vehicles, increased state gas and diesel taxes, and cap-and-trade funds. When they are read a short description of this proposal, 41 percent of adults and 43 percent of likely voters are in favor.

For more survey findings on transportation, read “Californians and Transportation.”

“The public strongly believes that transportation spending should be a high priority for the state government,” Baldassare said. “Yet with most saying that we also have to spend what we have more wisely, state bonds are much more popular than fees and taxes for funding much-needed improvements.”

About the Survey

The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,702 California adult residents, including 681 interviewed on landline telephones and 1,021 interviewed on cell phones. Interviews took place from January 22–31, 2017. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.3 percent for all adults, ±3.6 percent for the 1,428 registered voters, and ±4.1 percent for the 1,107 likely voters. For more information on methodology, see page 23.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.

The Public Policy Institute of California is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We are a public charity. We do not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor do we endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funders or of the staff, officers, advisory councils, or board of directors of the Public Policy Institute of California.