CalChamber Poll Finds Voters’ Concerns at Odds with Political Leaders

Californians are anxious.

The economy is growing, the state budget is balanced and the rains have resumed. Yet California voters are apprehensive about the future. They worry that state leaders are not addressing the issues that truly concern them, according to the third annual CalChamber Poll.

For the first time in three years of polling, slightly more voters say that California is headed down the wrong track (52%) than in the right direction (48%). Their assessment for the nation is even worse: twice as many voters have a negative outlook on the country’s direction than have a positive impression.

Parents are uneasy about their kids’ futures. Of the 28% of voters with children living at home, 61% agree that their children will have a better future if they leave California. Reasons include the high cost of living here, high taxes and worry about landing a good job.

This is the Cal Exit to worry about.

On jobs, where you live determines your perception of reality.

San Francisco Bay Area voters see a strong job creation climate in their region, with nearly a quarter of voters seeing “a lot of new jobs” in the area, and nearly eight in ten seeing “a lot” or “some” new jobs. Elsewhere, the perception is dimmer. Coastal southern Californians see a moderate number of new jobs in their regions, while voters in the Inland Empire and Central Valley are more pessimistic, with only 5% seeing “a lot” of new jobs and less than two in five even seeing “some” new jobs.

When asked about the quality of these new jobs, among voters who respond that “a lot” or “some” new jobs are being created, a majority statewide believe that most of these new jobs “tend to be dead ends that don’t lead to the middle class,” while a minority say the new jobs are “the type that lead to higher pay and middle class living.”

Regional differences also are stark here. Most SF Bay Area voters believe the new jobs will lead to higher pay and the middle class, while – by a two-to-one margin – Inland Empire and Central Valley voters believe most new jobs will be dead end jobs.

Crime is also increasingly on the minds of the public.

Voters overwhelmingly agree that elected officials in Sacramento are not spending enough time on reducing crime (86%) or expanding police powers to limit panhandling, homelessness and public drug use in city parks (66%).

They would be more likely to support legislative candidates who take a tough-on-crime approach, such as expanding the list of violent crimes for which early release is not an option, such as felony domestic violence and child sex trafficking (92%), reinstating DNA collection for certain misdemeanors to help law enforcement solve cases (77%), and revise upward the threshold for serial theft to be a felony (76% support).

While most voters have heard a great deal about making California a “sanctuary state,” by a nearly two-to-one margin they believe elected officials are spending too much time on the issue.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates may face calls to support a “single-payer” health care system, but voters are simply not impressed. Voters strongly support subsidies for people who cannot afford their own health care (75%) and for those who have pre-existing health conditions (81%), but are not ready to embrace government-run health care. Voters overwhelmingly prefer to keep their current health insurance (71%) over switching to a single-payer approach (29%).

Voters feel disconnected from their elected leaders, agreeing that the Legislature (82%) and Governor (63%) are “out of touch with the issues that are important to people like me.”

Issues that voters care about but believe the Legislature is not spending enough time on include crime, job creation, keeping energy prices low and building more highways.

Speaking of transportation, considering alternatives to the gasoline tax, voters prefer a mileage-based user fee (29%) to other choices, such as a tax on carbon emissions (20%), issuing state bonds (19%), raising the state sales tax (9%) or reducing spending on schools, colleges and health care (9%).

Voters were very supportive (61%) of paying for road repairs by replacing the gasoline tax with a mileage fee, in the context of increasing automobile fuel efficiency and the increasing number of vehicles that don’t use gasoline at all.

Voters are far less supportive of other fees and taxes on driving.

Only 37 percent support extension of the cap-and-trade program if it caused a fifty-cent-a-gallon hike in the price of gasoline. A $1.50 price increase drives support down to just 30% of voters.

The news is even worse for advocates of mileage fees to reduce driving. By a three-to-one margin, voters oppose legislative limits on driving, such as new fees, purposely designing roads to be more congested, or not expanding highway capacity at all.

Voters do not support (40%) banning gasoline-powered cars by 2030, although younger voters (67%) and voters in the San Francisco Bay Area (50%) seem intrigued by the idea.

On the quintessential California tax issue, voters still vigorously embrace the Proposition 13 property tax reforms.

Across the board, California voters (81%) have a very or somewhat favorable view of Proposition 13. This view is consistent, whether voters own their homes (85%) or rent (72%), and whether they are Democrat (75%), Republican (90%) or no party (83%).

The CalChamber poll demonstrates that voter anxiety and disconnection is as present in California as elsewhere in the country, notwithstanding the steadfast dominance of Democrats in political leadership.

The CalChamber poll was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) from October 4 to October 6, 2017 among n=1,000 definite California voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.

Loren Kaye
Loren Kaye was appointed president of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education in January 2006. He has devoted his career to developing, analyzing and implementing public policy issues in California, with a special emphasis on improving the state's business and economic climate. He also was a gubernatorial appointee to the state's Little Hoover Commission, charged with evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of state agencies and programs. Kaye served in senior policy positions for Governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian, including Cabinet Secretary to the Governor and Undersecretary of the California Trade and Commerce Agency. See full bio.