06:57 AM PDT on Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BY BEN GOAD
WASHINGTON BUREAU
bgoad@pe.com

President Barack Obama’s approval rating among Californians fell to a new low in recent months, as the state’s voters continued to struggle with a lasting economic downturn and most concluded that the country is headed in the wrong direction, a new survey found.

For the first time in his presidency, less than half of the state’s voters — 46 percent — approve of Obama’s performance, according to today’s Field Poll.

Obama’s approval rating reflects a 21 percent drop from the 65 percent mark he enjoyed in California during his first months in office.

The steady decline in the state’s support for Obama was accompanied by an equally steady increase in the number of voters who believe the country is now headed down the wrong path. In early 2009, 68 percent of the state’s voters said that the U.S. is seriously on the wrong track.

When voters are simultaneously disgruntled with both the direction of the country and a president’s performance, their angst is usually focused on one issue, Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said.

“They usually mean the economy,” said DiCamillo, who conducted today’s poll for The Press-Enterprise and other California media subscribers.

That’s exactly what’s weighing on Sam Bertic, one of dozens of Inland residents who took part in the survey. Bertic, 56, a systems engineer who has worked as a subcontractor for various defense and aerospace firms in the region, has been jobless since July 2009, he said.

The registered Republican said he doesn’t hold Obama entirely responsible for the economic crisis. However, he said, “It was certainly his administration that chopped my job.”

Cuts to various defense programs not only eliminated Bertic’s position in support of a manned combat vehicle made by General Dynamics, they’ve left few job opportunities elsewhere in his field, he said. Bertic said he is now facing foreclosure on his Rancho Cucamonga home and bankruptcy.

He said he was frustrated to see Obama earlier this week, flanked by teachers and construction workers, touting his plan to create jobs through infrastructure projects and other public-sector initiatives.

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