If you're a Medicare-age Democrat lucky enough to live near the coast, life in the Golden State looks pretty good.

But if you're younger, among California's dwindling number of registered Republicans or hail from an inland county, not so much.

Those are the results of a new Field Poll that tracked how Californians view their state as a place to live. Forty-three percent of registered voters surveyed said it's one of the best places to live; 26 percent rated it "nice but not outstanding." Twenty-one percent said it's about average, with 8 percent calling it a poor place to live.

Driving those numbers, said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo, is where the voter lives, their age and political bent.

While a majority of voters living in the Bay Area described California as one of the best places to live, just 1 in 3 Central Valley voters and those living in the state's other inland counties agree.

That's been true historically since the question was first posed to residents in 1967, DiCamillo said, and a good part of the regional differences is often tied to economics.

As the state has emerged from the Great Recession, he noted, unemployment has been much higher in the Central Valley and other inland counties.

"I think there's a lot going on when voters are viewing the state as it relates to their ability to get a job and the economic tenor of the time,'' DiCamillo said.

The poll also found that more than half of Californians who are 65 or older also rate the state as one of the best places to live, while only about a third of voters age 40 to 64 say this.

DiCamillo thinks part of that may be because older Californians tend to own their homes or have very low mortgage rates compared with younger people, who are more likely to be renting or still paying off higher-priced homes.

"That's probably the biggest nut to crack in California,'' he said. "The cost of living has a lot to do with housing, and if you can get past that hurdle, California suddenly looks a lot better.''

Liberals and registered Democrats, meanwhile, are more positive when describing life in California than are conservatives or registered Republicans.

Those who lean left politically "feel quite good about living in California because it's governed by the Democratic Party and by progressive-thinking politicians generally," DiCamillo said. "Republicans and conservatives feel otherwise and more critical.''

When voters were asked to compare the overall quality of life in California to most other states, a 55 percent majority believes the quality of life here is better, 18 percent feel it's worse and 22 percent see no difference.

But regardless of where a voter lives, or their political party, by greater than a 9-1 ratio, voters believe the cost of living in California is higher than it is in most other states.

This is the 17th year the Field Poll has tracked how Californians view their state as a place to live. The question was first posed in 1967, when more than 7 in 10 agreed it was one of the best.

That positive sentiment continued until the late 1980s, when the numbers dropped to 58 percent.

The Field Poll recorded a low of 33 percent in 1992, when California was in the midst of a prolonged recession.

Since then, the number of Californians describing the state as one of the best places to live has ranged from a high of 54 percent in 2000 to a low of 39 percent in 2011.

DiCamillo thinks the declining trend is linked to the booming population that has, in the minds of many, started to reduce the state's "livability.''

The survey, conducted from Nov. 14 to Dec. 5, included 1,002 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

A separate Field Poll released Wednesday asked California voters if they would support having the rural northern counties of Siskiyou and Modoc secede from the state if it offered a more unified California voice.

The overwhelming majority of those polled, 58 percent -- including most Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan voters -- opposed the idea.

Residents in the two counties for decades have complained that the state Legislature and other state and federal agencies do not pay enough attention to their needs and interests.

Contact Tracy Seipel at 408 920-5343. Follow her at Twitter.com/taseipel.

CALIFORNIA AS A PLACE TO LIVE
One of the best places to live
Nice, but not outstanding
About average
Poor place to live
Source: Field Poll