The honeymoon is ending for Gov. Jerry Brown.
For the first time in a major California poll since Brown took office, a plurality of likely voters disapproves of the job he is doing, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday.
The margin is pencil-thin – 43 percent disapprove while 42 percent approve – but follows more than a year of relatively favorable marks for the Democratic governor. In April, Brown's job approval rating among likely voters was 47 percent.
Brown's dip in public opinion was registered in the days immediately after his announcement last week that California's budget deficit had grown to $15.7 billion, up from $9.2 billion in January.
"There are things that, as governor, you don't have any control over, and in particular the economy seems to have either stalled or worse over the last few months," poll director Mark Baldassare said. "People are getting worried again."
Despite their dimmer view of Brown, likely voters remain supportive of his November ballot initiative to raise taxes – 56 percent to 38 percent, according to the poll. That level of support is slightly higher than in April.
The initiative, a major part of Brown's agenda this year, would raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.
Brown's declining job approval rating is less a plunge than a shift. Among all adults in California – not just likely voters – Brown's approval rating remains positive, 39 percent to 36 percent, according to the poll.
"It's not surprising," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. "The economic news is middling, at best, and the state fiscal news is bad."
He said, "In his early months, Californians were willing to give Brown the benefit of the doubt. But his grace period has ended."
None of the state's three major polls has previously registered a negative job approval rating for Brown among a plurality of voters. A Field Poll in February found Brown's public approval rating slipping, but still positive at 45 percent. The percentage of voters who disapprove of the job Brown is doing has been increasing gradually since Brown took office.
Brown spokesman Gil Duran, in an email, said Brown "is doing exactly what he said he would do – facing the state's challenges and making the difficult choices. In November, he will make sure voters have a chance to decide the path forward."