07:19 AM PST on Wednesday, January 27, 2010

By BEN GOAD
Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – Two out of three California voters disapprove of the job Congress is doing in Washington, according to a poll released this morning.

But the survey doesn’t necessarily bode well for Republicans angling for big gains this November in the House and the Senate. Most voters here said they were still leaning toward Democratic candidates.

The Field Poll, prepared for The Press-Enterprise and other media subscribers, reflects the latest in a series of poor marks for Congress.

California’s electorate have not felt positively toward Congress since April 2003, according to the poll.

“Congress has really fallen in low esteem,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “Contributing to that this time is the handling of health care.”

Indeed just 23 percent of voters approve of how the fight over health care legislation has gone, with 69 percent disapproving and 8 percent without an opinion, the poll found. While voters’ views on issues often split along party lines, Californians appear united in their poor assessment of how health care legislation was handled.

Democrats and nonpartisan voters each posted disapproval ratings higher than 60 percent on the issue. A whopping 85 percent of Republicans don’t like the way health care legislation is being handled in Congress.

The universal discontent over health care may be a consequence of the high level of attention on the issue in the media, which has exposed how pressure from interest groups and deal-making between lawmakers has affected the bill, DiCamillo said.

“More voters have been turned off by the process — they’ve been exposed to a lot of the sausage making of the legislation,” he said. The low numbers could be “more to do with process than the actual substance of the bill.”

Louis Lubinsky of Redlands is among the participants in the poll who said Congress hasn’t handled the issue as well as it could have. Lubinsky, 95, said he believes a health care bill should be passed, but that proponents of the legislation have erred in their insistence on sweeping changes in the system.

“They shouldn’t say ‘all or nothing,’ ” said Lubinsky, an independent voter who has generally leaned toward Democratic candidates. “It’s got to be a scaled down version of the original bill.”

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