By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

There are dozens of proposed measures for the 2010 elections, all of which purport to improve California’s economic, social or civic well-being. Some are fairly major structural changes – and chances are high that quite a few will actually make the ballot.

Whether voters would be receptive to calling a constitutional convention, radically altering state budget processes, allowing same-sex marriage, overhauling legislative and congressional redistricting, changing insurance practices or any of the other proposals depends largely on their mood. And a new statewide poll indicates that Californians are, to put it mildly, depressed.

The Field Research poll finds that 95 percent of registered voters believe that California is in economic bad times, a number virtually unchanged from last March. Nearly 80 percent rate unemployment as a very serious problem.

Superficially, those polling numbers would appear to merely confirm the obvious. After all, the state is experiencing its worst recession since the Great Depression – one that hit California harder than most states – and economists universally agree that recovery will be long and slow.

The official unemployment rate is over 12 percent, but when you add in the workers who have given up looking for jobs, those who are underemployed and those who have seen their incomes reduced, the real impact is much higher. A whopping 59 percent of those surveyed by Field say they are worse off financially than they were a year ago, the same number as Field found in 2009.

So, one might conclude, Californians are feeling depressed and not particularly hopeful that their financial pain will ease soon, which fuels the hoary political axiom that angry voters tend to take it out on those in political office, justified or not.

That’s why, for example, the Obama White House and Democratic congressional leaders are worried about substantial losses in 2010 congressional elections.

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