SACRAMENTO -- Political power means a lot to some, but in Nancy Pelosi's case it came at a whopping price.
The Bay Area Democrat's honeymoon as House speaker that started in January is just a distant memory now, despite California's Democratic lean, a late-June statewide poll reveals.
Pelosi's approval rating in California since March has plunged from 52 percent to 39 percent, according to the survey by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California.
"A fantasy land" that stirred the dreams of the Democratic Bay Area in particular has given way to something akin to "the worst of reality TV," said David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State.
Analysts said the congressional member has put the best face she can on loss of majority support. A spokeswoman says it's born of a frustration Pelosi shares with Democrats and independents over President Bush and the Iraq war. So the speaker's tactics won't change.
"Democrats will try again and again to hold this president accountable," said spokeswoman Nadeam Elshami.
Virtually gridlocked over war and immigration, the popularity of the U.S. Congress in general has fallen in California. But at a 9 percentage point decline, from 42 percent in March to 33 percent, it's not quite the slap Pelosi has suffered.
Californians are so discouraged about Washington, analysts say, they're giving up hope of progress and are growing gloomy about the nation's direction.
Nearly 70 percent
"Only 28 percent believe they will accomplish a lot -- a 10-point drop from the 38 percent who believed they would in January," he said.
Elshami said the speaker believes "frustrated people in California, just like across the country, aren't happy with the war" and "believe Congress should force the president to change course."
Pelosi is blaming Republicans for using a Senate rule requiring 60 votes for a bill to be heard on the floor -- which exceeds the Democrats' thin majority -- in order to neutralize Democrats.
But analysts point out that California, though lacking enthusiasm about Bush, is heavily divided over its opinion on the war anyway -- splintered across political parties, regions and racial groups.
For instance, though a majority of Democrats and independents say the war is going poorly, far less than a third of Republicans hold that view.
Pulling back to the bigger picture, the poll indicates only about a third of Californians believe the nation is going the right direction in general, whereas nearly two-thirds say it's not. Majorities across political parties believe matters are going the wrong direction -- 74 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans.
"With many voters seeing our political leaders unable to deal effectively with complex public-policy issues, looking for competent candidates to emerge has become an unusually intense focus this presidential election season," McCuan said.
Staff writer Josh Richman contributed to this report. Reach Steve Geissinger of the Oakland Tribune at email@example.com or 916-447-9302.