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Voters More Optimistic, Less Engaged

Dean Bonner October 29, 2014

A lot has changed since Californians cast ballots just four years ago.

Likely voters today are feeling much better about the direction and economic outlook of the state. In October 2010, most (77%) said that the state was headed in the wrong direction. In our latest survey, likely voters are much more positive about the state’s future—although they are still more likely to say wrong direction (54%) than right direction (40%). Similarly, in October 2010 less than a quarter of likely voters (20%) expected good economic times in the upcoming year and far more (65%) expected bad times. Today, the mood is decidedly different, with 42% expecting good times and 47% expecting bad times. In October 2010, most likely voters (59%) named jobs and the economy as the state’s most important issue. Today, just 30% name it as the top issue, which barely keeps it in first place, while 28% name water and the drought. Further, in September 2010 nearly all likely voters (90%) called the state budget situation a big problem—today, that number is 62%.

This year, likely voters are paying less attention to news about the candidates for governor than they did four years ago, when the race involved an open seat and a high-profile contest. In October 2010, an overwhelming majority were very (39%) or fairly closely (50%) paying attention to news about gubernatorial candidates. In our latest survey, just half of likely voters were doing so (18% very, 34% fairly). In addition, there is a big enthusiasm gap. Fewer voters today say they are “more enthusiastic about voting than usual” (53% 2010, 40% today).

In 2010, when many people were tuned into the top of the ticket race, nearly 60 percent of registered voters turned out to vote. With far fewer voters paying attention to the gubernatorial race—and with the lack of a Congressional senate race—what can we expect in 2014? Will concerns about the drought and the state budget drive people to the polls—and if so, how will this translate into votes on Proposition 1, the water bond, and Proposition 2, the establishment of a rainy day fund? Stay tuned to PPIC as we continue to follow the November 2014 election.

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