Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

(09-28) 04:00 PDT Sacramento – —

California voters are giving state leaders some of the lowest marks ever recorded, according to a Field Poll released today.

A mere 10 percent of registered voters approve of how the 120 members of the Legislature are doing their jobs, and 80 percent disapprove. That’s the lowest approval rating in the history of the poll, going back to 1983, and is six percentage points lower than in July.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nearly matched his all-time low, with 23 percent of voters approving of his job performance, one percentage point higher than his low point two months ago in July.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, said there is a clear reason for the historically negative poll – the record-breaking state budget impasse that has left the state without a spending plan 90 days into the fiscal year.

“It’s the budget delay that has topped all budget delays,” DiCamillo said, adding that voters have “the view that the Legislature is just not doing its job.”

The governor and top Democratic and Republican leaders were working on budget negotiations Monday evening, and earlier in the day Schwarzenegger told a meeting of the Commonwealth Club in Santa Clara that a vote on a budget could happen within a week.

Voters are spreading the blame for the impasse around fairly evenly, with 25 percent saying it is the fault of the governor, Democrats and Republicans. Pollsters had asked respondents only if they blamed the governor, Democrats or Republicans individually, but more people said the blame lies with everyone at the capitol.

Still, nearly a quarter of the people said Schwarzenegger is most to blame, with 20 percent saying Democrats are the problem and 16 percent saying Republicans are at fault.

The other major finding from the Field Poll is that Californians are nearing historic highs for pessimism about the direction the state is headed.

Twelve percent of voters polled said the state is on the right track, while 81 percent said they believed the state is seriously off on the wrong track. The lowest recorded number was in 1992, when 7 percent of those polled thought California was headed in the right direction and 90 percent disagreed.

The state was deep in recession during that year.

Corey Cook, assistant professor of political science and director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center at the University of San Francisco, said the budget stalemate does feed into negative views about the state’s leaders, but said he thinks it is a combination of several factors.

“There’s a broader unhappiness with unemployment, the state of the economy and the general sense that things are way off the rails in California,” Cook said.

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