Six times as many California voters disapprove of how Congress is doing its job compared with those who approve, a new Field Poll finds.

But as dismal as that sounds, it isn’t even a record. The 13 percent approval rating Congress now boasts is better than the 9 percent all-time low it cratered to in September 2011 and mirrors the 13 percent approval rating that Gallup found nationwide this month.

As usual, Californians feel better about their trees than about the forest: More voters approve (44 percent) than disapprove (33 percent) of the job their own representatives are doing.

“If there’s one thing that unites members of Congress, it’s the message that they send out to their own constituents: ’I’m great, and the problem is with all those other clowns,’ ” said Jack Pitney, a Claremont McKenna College professor and an expert on Congress.

Democrats appear to be the most forgiving among California’s voters; 55 percent approve of their own representative’s work. Independent voters are more divided, with 38 percent approving and 39 percent disapproving. And although only 32 percent of Republicans approve of their own House member, those who identify as Tea Party members are far more frustrated: twice as likely to disapprove as to approve.


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While less than half of Californians are inclined to re-elect their current House members, Democrats are much more disposed to do so — 57 percent would, while 21 percent wouldn’t and 22 percent say it depends on who’s running or are undecided. That could be good news for Bay Area incumbents like Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, who face challengers from both sides of the aisle in their heavily Democratic districts.

The backdrop isn’t as rosy for embattled California House Republicans like Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto: Only a third of GOP voters are inclined to re-elect incumbents, while 45 percent say they wouldn’t do so. Among Tea Party voters, 52 percent are not inclined to re-elect incumbents, while only 27 percent are.

Walter Stone, a UC Davis professor who’s an expert on Congress and voter behavior, said it all depends on who’s running. Frustrated-but-engaged voters such as Tea Partyers might be less inclined to re-elect an incumbent, but are still likelier to hold their noses and vote for a GOP incumbent they don’t like than for a Democrat or for nobody at all, he said.

So Valadao and Denham, facing only Democratic challengers, probably can still count on strong support from their GOP bases, Tea Party or not.

The poll also asked whether voters feel it would be better for the president’s party also to have majority control of the Congress or whether it would be better to have one party controlling the White House and the other controlling Congress. Voters were evenly split, with 37 percent favoring single-party control and 36 percent favoring divided party control; 26 percent had no opinion or said it depends on which party would control which branch.

The Field Poll surveyed 1,000 California voters from March 18 through April 5; the poll’s margin of error is 3.2 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.



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