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Trump’s approval in California hasn’t shifted: It’s still low

President Trump in Washington on Monday.
President Trump speaks to reporters at a meeting in the Oval Office on Monday with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(Michael Reynolds / EPA/EFE)

The stability of President Trump’s standing with voters is one of the hallmarks of his presidency: No matter the headlines, his approval ratings change very little.

That may be especially true in California — a mostly liberal state with a significant conservative minority — where Trump’s deep unpopularity shows no sign of abating.

California voters disapprove of Trump by roughly 2-1, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, conducted for the Los Angeles Times.

Although some national polls have seen Trump’s standing with voters tick up slightly in recent months, his numbers in California have not changed significantly since the last Berkeley poll done in late November or, in fact, since previous Berkeley polls over the last two years.

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That’s despite a raft of major headlines in recent weeks, including Trump’s impeachment by the House, the missile strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani, subsequent Iranian retaliation, and approval of a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that Trump hailed as a major victory.

The stability of presidential approval ratings became a notable phenomenon before Trump.

During President Obama’s tenure, polls found that his standing with voters fluctuated far less than that of his immediate predecessors, Presidents George W. Bush, a Republican, and Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Trump’s standing has moved even less, starting out far lower than most presidents and then remaining stuck near 40% approval nationwide.

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Political scientists say the lack of change reflects the nation’s deepening partisanship, which has shrunk the number of swing voters and hardened the views of people on both sides of the aisle.

In California, nearly all registered Democrats, 95%, disapprove of Trump’s job performance, with 86% saying they disapprove strongly, the Berkeley poll found. Among the state’s outnumbered registered Republicans, opinion is only somewhat less uniform: 90% approve of Trump’s work, with 66% approving strongly.

Just under one in five of the state’s voters describe themselves as very liberal, and 98% of them say they disapprove of Trump. About one in 10 call themselves very conservative, and 86% approve of Trump.

Self-described moderates — about a third of the state’s voters — disapprove of Trump 70%-30%, accounting for the state’s overall disapproval of him.

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As is true nationally, Trump’s ratings on the economy surpass his approval on other issues. Statewide, 39% of Californians approve of Trump’s handling of the economy and 60% disapprove, while 33% approve of his job performance overall and 67% disapprove.

Trump’s standing on foreign policy closely resembles his overall standing, 32% approve and 67% disapprove. The confrontation with Iran does not appear to have changed voter attitudes: The numbers are virtually identical to those in the late November poll.

Given Trump’s low approval ratings in the state, there’s little doubt about how Californians will vote in November, barring some huge shift.

The poll shows two-thirds of California voters say they are not inclined to vote to reelect Trump, with almost all of them saying they are “strongly” disinclined to do so. The remaining one-third say they are inclined to reelect Trump, and almost no one says they’re uncertain.

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The UC Berkeley IGS poll, supervised by pollster Mark DiCamillo, was conducted online in English and Spanish, Jan. 15-21. It questioned 6,845 registered voters statewide, including 5,170 considered likely voters in the November 2020 general election.

The estimated margin of error for the likely voter sample is roughly 2 percentage points in either direction. Full text of the questions asked and details on the methodology are available on the Berkeley IGS website.


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