Field Poll: Obama Up, Schwarzenegger Down

Field Poll: Obama Up, Schwarzenegger Down

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President Obama may be referred to as the first “post-racial” candidate, but it’s California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger whose low job approval ratings cross all ethnic and racial groups.

A new Field Poll indicates that support for President Obama varies by ethnicity, from white non-Hispanics who are evenly split (47 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove of the job he is doing), to African Americans who expressed overwhelming support (91 percent). Sixty-one percent of Latinos and 62 percent of Asian Americans expressed approval, with Korean Americans giving Obama the highest ratings of any Asian subgroup (80 percent).

Meanwhile, across all ethnicities, Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings have sunk to historically low levels. Only 22 percent of California voters approve of the governor’s job performance, the lowest of any California governor in the 50 years the Field Poll has been conducting the survey.

The poll found that nearly eight in 10 voters (79 percent) believe that the state is seriously on the wrong track, while just 13 percent see it moving in the right direction. The pollsters call this “the gloomiest assessment” given by California voters since the early 1990s.

“There’s even greater pessimism about California and the direction it’s headed in than the country overall,” says Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. “It’s not a good set of a measures, but it reflects the mood of Californians in the year 2010.”

The Field Poll results indicate a shift in ethnic voters’ opinions on whether Democrats or Republicans are more likely to get California on the right track.

On a national level, ethnic voters are sticking with Obama in much higher numbers than whites. “Ethnic voters are much more supportive and likely to believe that Obama is doing a good job,” says DiCamillo. “White non-Hispanics were very positive about Obama last year, so it would appear that the ethnic voters have somewhat greater patience with Obama, given the challenges that he has.”

Paula Ellis, an African American independent who lives in Castaic in Los Angeles County, agrees. “People just need to wait for things to work out. Federally, I just wish they’d give Obama time. He can’t do this overnight.”

But at the state level, many ethnic voters have diverged from their support of Democratic leadership. “Even though Latinos are more Democratic, what you’re seeing is somewhat greater support for the Republicans—at least in the governors’ race— which I attribute directly to outreach through early advertising and campaigning,” DiCamillo says.

He sees this shift as the result of a desire for change on both the state and national levels. “I think that voters everywhere are looking for some change from where we currently are, so there’s this feeling of, ‘I’ll entertain the alternatives that are open to me now.’”

Paul Sid, a Chinese American independent voter from San Francisco, reflects that shift. “I did elect Obama for president, but the economic situation recently, mainly with the start of health care reform, greatly changed my outlook on Obama. Today I would not vote for him.”

Sid’s pessimism about the future of California will also have an impact on who will get his vote in November. Although he says he will vote for Republican Carly Fiorina for senator, he’s unsure that any of the candidates, Democrat or Republican, has what it takes to push the state in a positive direction. “I’m not too sure who can solve the state’s problems. We make choices. I make a choice. What people say in speeches and what they can and cannot deliver are different.”