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As the federal health care overhaul continues to divide Californians, President Barack Obama's approval here plunged to a record low, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The president's job approval dropped to 46 percent among likely voters while state residents gave a collective shrug to the Affordable Care Act, his signature legislative achievement. Some 46 percent view the law unfavorably, 44 percent favorably.

Still, a large majority of residents say they plan to comply with the law, which requires nearly everyone to obtain insurance coverage or pay a penalty. Among the uninsured, 72 percent say they plan to acquire health insurance this year, 18 percent indicate they will not, and 9 percent remain unsure. Among those covered, 6 percent obtained it on their own, with the remainder receiving it from another source, such as their employer.

Despite California's comparatively smooth roll-out, fewer than half of the state's adult residents believe their online marketplace is working well, with the uninsured more likely to say it's not working (50 percent) than those with health care coverage (36 percent).

Covered California has struggled to attract certain demographics, namely young people and Latinos. Among racial and ethnic groups, African Americans (62 percent) were more likely than Latinos (52 percent), Asians (45 percent) and whites (39 percent) to say the program is working well.

The health care act is expected to play prominently in the midterm elections, where Republicans are harnessing disapproval for the law to retain their House majority and possibly regain control of the U.S. Senate.

While slightly more than half of the state's adults approve of their own congressional representative, likely voters are more divided: 48 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer draw the approval of 49 percent and 48 percent of likely voters, respectively.

Californians' faith in a year of action described by Obama in his State of the Union Address Tuesday appears low. Roughly 60 percent believe Obama and Congress will not be unable to work together to accomplish a lot. At the time of Obama's inauguration, more than 80 percent believed there would be successful collaboration between the executive and legislative branches.

The survey, conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation, is based on interviews with 1,706 adult residents from Jan. 14 to Jan. 21. The margin of error is 3.8 percent to 4.6 percent in either direction.

Here's a snapshot of how Californians weighed in on other key issues:


About 82 percent support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who wait their turn, pay back taxes and fines, pass criminal background checks, and learn the English language. The proposal drew support from 89 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of independents and 74 percent of Republicans. On the heels of separate state laws granting driver's and law licenses to undocumented immigrates, 53 percent are fine with legislators making their own policies for immigrants in the face of federal inaction on the issue.

Some 60 percent approve of Gov. Jerry Brown's job performance, an 11-percent increase from December. Record-setting support came from 76 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of independents and 36 percent of Republicans.

With Brown yet to declare his candidacy, just 7 percent are closely following news reports about the candidates. Between Brown and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, 53 percent back the governor and 17 support Donnelly. Republican Neel Kashkari entered the race only recently.

Three-quarters favor Brown's budget proposal, the highest level of January support since he took office. On Brown's rainy-day fund proposal, 64 percent said they were in favor of the constitutional amendment. A majority of state residents want to see the projected surplus used to pay down debt and stored in reserve rather than restoring funding for some social service programs.

Approval of the state Legislature is at 33 percent, though 45 percent approve of their own lawmakers. A majority believe the Legislature and governor will collaborate to accomplish a lot this session.

• 7 percent of Californians mention water and drought as most important for the governor and Legislature to work on this year, a record high.
• 62 percent favor limiting how much the state increases spending each year.
• A majority (51 percent) oppose lowering the vote threshold for local special taxes to 55 percent from two-thirds.
• 85 percent believe the amount of money going to public employee pensions is at least somewhat a problem for state and local municipal budgets. Some 73 support replacing the guaranteed pension system with 401(k)-style plans.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama removes his coat before delivering remarks on health insurance reform during his event at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, March 25, 2010. (AP Photo/ Charlie Neibergall)


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