Feinstein's Approval Rating Sinks to Historic Low in New Poll

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Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and ranking member Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., attend the Senate Judiciary Committee executive business meeting on Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett in Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday, October 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Tom Williams/POOL/AFP via Getty Image)

For most of her 29 years in the U.S. Senate, Dianne Feinstein has consistently enjoyed some of the highest approval ratings among California's elected officials. But not anymore.

A new poll from UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies finds that just 35% of registered California voters approve of the job Feinstein is doing, while 45% disapprove and 20% have no opinion.

It's the first time her approval rating has dipped below 44% since 1993. It's also the first time voter assessments of her have sunk underwater in surveys by Berkeley IGS, or the now-defunct Field Poll, since 1993.

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The Berkeley IGS poll was taken Jan. 23 to Jan. 29 this year among 10,357 registered voters in California. The survey was conducted online in English and Spanish and has a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

At the age of 87, Feinstein is the oldest member of the U.S. Senate. Her recent performance as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has drawn criticism, especially from Democrats who disapprove of her cozy relationships with Republicans on the committee.

And, perhaps also contributing to her flagging poll numbers, a recent article in the New Yorker showed in painful detail how staff and colleagues have seen a sharp decline in Feinstein's memory — enough so to interfere with her job, they claim. Apparently, voters are taking notice.

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Feinstein has never been a favorite among the most liberal members of her party, who regard her as too moderate or even conservative on some issues. In the Berkeley IGS poll, 45% of voters — including 41% of Democrats — say Feinstein is less effective today than she's been in the past, while just 4% say she's more effective now and 22% say there's been no change.

There has been speculation about whether Feinstein will complete her six-year Senate term, which runs through 2024, or if she would retire before then. After outrage on the left following her unsteady guidance of the Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court confirmation hearings and a concluding hug with Republican Committee Chair Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, Feinstein announced she would step down as the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Ranking Member Diane Feinstein, D-California and Chairman Lindsey Graham. R-South Carolina, hug as the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett come to a close on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15, 2020. (Samuel Corum/POOL/AFP via Getty Image)

On the other hand, Alex Padilla, recently appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve the remainder of Vice President Harris' Senate term, saw overall approval in the Berkeley IGS poll, which found 47% of voters liked the appointment. That includes 68% of registered Democrats.

Harris, now a key part of the Biden administration, is the most highly rated statewide official in the poll with 56% approval, compared with 38% who found her unfavorable.

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In addition to Harris, California is home to the two most powerful members of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. When asked to assess the positions of each with regard to former President Donald Trump, 61% of voters approve of Pelosi's stance on Trump while just 30% approve of McCarthy's.

While assessments of Pelosi and McCarthy are generally divided along party lines, 17% of Republicans and 62% of no party preference voters disapprove of McCarthy's steadfast support of Trump.