New Poll Brings Mixed News for Feinstein, Harris

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Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris walk to a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence closed door meeting in April. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Since she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, Dianne Feinstein has consistently enjoyed higher approval ratings than the other U.S. senator from California, Barbara Boxer.

But with Boxer now retired, her replacement Kamala Harris is winning slightly more positive reviews from voters than the state's senior senator, at least in a new UC Berkeley Institute of Govermental Studies poll.

When asked for their assessment of the job Feinstein is doing, 50 percent say they approve of her performance, down from 59 percent in the March survey. Meanwhile 36 percent disapprove of Feinstein's performance and 14 percent have no opinion.

Harris by contrast gets positive reviews from 52 percent of voters, while 29 percent disapprove and 19 percent don't know.

Perhaps more ominous for Feinstein is that fewer than half of voters -- 45 percent -- say they'd be inclined to support the 84-year-old if she runs for re-election next year. Forty-one percent would not and 14 percent are unsure.


Pollster Mark DiCamillo emphasizes that despite the tepid support for Feinstein's re-election, it would be a mistake to count her out.

"It's important to note that usually candidates fare better, especially incumbents, when you put them up against a known challenger than in the abstract," DiCamillo said. He noted the advantages of incumbency, including high name recognition, ability to raise money and collect high-profile endorsements.

Meanwhile Sen. Harris continues to see her national profile rise as Democrats hungry for new leadership see her as a rising star. It's even led to talk that Harris might run for president. But the Berkeley IGS poll found that most voters here in California -- 49 percent --  would prefer that Harris remain in the Senate, while just 22 percent would support a run for president in 2020.

"Much of Washington seems to be enthralled with her, I guess that's a good thing," notes DiCamillo. "Voters here are also quite positive about her. But they would prefer that she remain in the Senate."

The most liberal voters surveyed were also the most enthusiastic about a "Harris for President" campaign -- a sign her vocal opposition to President Trump's agenda and support for liberal causes like single-payer health care are winning approval from Democrats on the left.

The poll also asked registered Democrats about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose leadership has been questioned by some after her party lost four special elections to fill House seats.

Less than one-third of Democrats polled would like Pelosi to remain the party's leader, whether or not the party wins back control of the House in 2018.