Californians' approval of President Barack Obama's job performance has taken the sharpest dive of his presidency in recent months, according to a new Field Poll, with some of his most loyal supporters losing faith after revelations that the government is tracking Americans' phone and Internet use.

Where 62 percent of California voters approved of Obama's job performance in February, only 52 percent did so in late June and early July -- a sudden drop unprecedented among the president's recent peers. The falloff was largest among blocs that historically have given him high marks: registered Democrats' approval dropped by 14 points, nonpartisan voters' by 12 points, women's by 15 points and voters under age 40 by 14 points.

Based on that, poll director Mark DiCamillo said, "You could surmise that it does have to do with the surveillance and the authorization of this kind of unprecedented listening to of phone conversations and emails and that kind of thing."

Obama has faced harsh questions from many among his own base since details emerged last month of a clandestine mass electronic surveillance data-mining program.

Even so, the Golden State still generally likes him: 57 percent of Californians say they have a favorable view of the president overall, while 35 percent hold an unfavorable view. That's identical to how voters felt about him just before his re-election last year.


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The difference is that 9 percent of all voters and 11 percent of rank-and-file Democrats who view Obama favorably now disapprove or are undecided about his job performance.

DiCamillo said this sudden drop-off in approval didn't happen in other recent presidents' second terms. President George W. Bush's approval rating dropped seven points from early to mid-2005, but that was part of a years-long downward slide, he said, while Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan only lost a few points in their fifth years in office.

Corey Cook, director of the University of San Francisco's Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, said he agrees "absolutely" with DiCamillo that revelations of domestic spying by intelligence and law enforcement agencies have hurt Obama's numbers.

The 10-point drop denotes "the more progressive voters, younger voters who have finally gotten disillusioned with Obama," Cook said, especially when many expected that he would move leftward after winning a second term.

Some have other complaints. Mary Zuniga, 66, a registered Democrat from San Jose, told the poll she generally feels favorable toward Obama but has no opinion of his job performance.

"I did vote for him, but he's kind of let me down on a few things, so I'm just not thrilled with his performance," she said Monday, explaining she's a disabled senior unhappy with Obama's failure to improve health care and taxes for people like her.

"I feel like it's not very good as it should be for older people who are poorer," Zuniga said. "I'd like to have somebody who's going to do what he said he's going to do and not switch."

But some supporters are sticking by the president. Democrat Lynn Jones, 46, approves of Obama's job performance and feels favorably toward him.

"A lot of the stuff that's been coming out in the news can't really be pinned on him as one person, even though he's at the helm -- he doesn't have a direct degree of control over everything," said the homemaker and English tutor from Martinez. "He's been so hampered by a Congress that just doesn't want to do anything but work against him."

By region, Obama's approval rating remained highest in Los Angeles, at 63 percent, followed by the Bay Area at 60 percent, the Central Valley at 45 percent, the rest of Northern California at 44 percent and the rest of Southern California at 43 percent.

The Field Poll surveyed 846 California registered voters from June 26 through July 21; the poll's overall margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

Josh Richman covers politics. Contact him at 510-208-6428. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.