62 Percent of Californians Expect Bad Times for the State, Survey Finds 

62 Percent of Californians Expect Bad Times for the State, Survey Finds 

People walk past a homeless encampment near a Target store in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 2023. A poll found that a quarter of Democrats believe homelessness is the most important issue facing the state. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Travis Gillmore
Travis Gillmore


Updated: 2/27/2024


A majority of Californians are pessimistic about the future of the state, according to a new survey by the independent, nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
“It is noteworthy that optimism is down,” researchers wrote in the report.
The survey was conducted Feb. 6 through Feb. 13. This is the 26th year the policy group has questioned Californians about their opinion of the state.
Across the state, more than six in 10 respondents are expecting economic distress for California in the next year. That negative outlook has persisted since November 2021. Republicans are more likely to expect financial problems for the state, with 80 percent surveyed suggesting such is the case, while 68 percent of independents agree, and 45 percent of Democrats also concur.
And nearly six in 10 respondents said the Golden State is headed in the wrong direction.
“With a blundering economy, rampant homeless crisis, brazen crime, and failing schools, is anyone surprised?” Jessica Millan Patterson, California GOP chairwoman, posted Feb. 23 on X, in response to the survey.
Partisan differences exist, with 88 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents, and 33 percent of Democrats saying the state is misguided. The results hold true across regions and demographics, except African American respondents who disagree by a slim margin.
With the state facing a significant budget deficit estimated at $78 billion and growing, according to a recently released report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, survey participants varied in their opinions on its implications. Nearly 90 percent of all respondents said it is a problem, and about half said it represents a “big problem.”
About half of those surveyed approve of the proposed budget put forth by Gov. Gavin Newsom in January—which includes a combination of spending cuts, deferrals, and borrowing but does not raise taxes—with differences in how to address the concern split by party lines. Democrats are more in favor of increasing taxes to fill the budget gap, while Republicans said spending cuts are the preferred course of action.
For the first time since 2019, fewer than half of Californians approve of Mr. Newsom’s overall performance—with 47 percent of those surveyed reporting they are in favor of the governor’s policy decisions. Democrats at 70 percent are more likely to approve, with 60 percent of independents and 84 percent of Republicans disapproving.
Across regions, those in the areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles approve of the governor by slight majorities at 52 percent and 53 percent, respectively.
Demographic groups also differed in their opinion of the governor’s performance, with 67 percent of African Americans and slightly more than half of Latinos approving, while Asian Americans were split at 48 percent and white respondents disapproved at a rate of 56 percent.
Even fewer are in favor of the Legislature’s decisions, with 54 percent disapproving overall. That represents a six-point decline in favorability compared with the same time last year. While Democrats approve by a rate of 64 percent, and African Americans at 57 percent, all other groups, parties, and regions disapprove.
The state government’s motives were also questioned, with 70 percent of respondents saying that a few big interests control the system for their own benefit.
And widespread doubt exists regarding the use of taxpayer money, with 91 percent of those surveyed believing funds are wasted.
Though most are pessimistic about the governor and the Legislature, 56 percent of respondents expect the state’s executive and legislative branches to work together and accomplish “a lot” over the next year.
Optimism has declined by 11 points since January 2019 but has remained relatively steady over recent years. Democrats are far more optimistic, with 74 percent expecting progress, while 47 percent of independents and 38 percent of Republicans are.
On the most important issues facing the state, respondents were split. A combined category of jobs, economy, and inflation were the top priority for 20 percent of respondents; homelessness placed second with 18 percent; housing costs and availability came in at 14 percent; 11 percent chose crime, gangs, and drugs; and immigration trailed at 10 percent.
Democrats believed homelessness was the most important at a 26 percent clip, 24 percent of Republicans chose immigration, and independents slimly chose jobs, economy, and inflation over housing costs and availability.
When asked to consider the only measure on the ballot during the March primary, 59 percent of likely voters said they would vote in favor of Proposition 1, which would approve a $6.38 billion bond to expand treatment facilities to address mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness. Other than Republicans, majorities existed across demographic groups and regions.
Answers via online and phone interviews were provided by 1,628 adults across the state, and researchers reported a 3.3 percent margin of error.

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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