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Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders continue to lead the field in California’s primary race. Most Californians say President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, though views are mixed on how Democrats in Congress are handling the impeachment inquiry. In Sacramento last Wednesday, PPIC researcher Alyssa Dykman outlined these are other key findings from PPIC’s latest statewide survey, which was conducted before the November 20 debate.

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning likely voters, support for Joe Biden (24%), Elizabeth Warren (23%), and Bernie Sanders (17%) is much higher than for Kamala Harris (8%), Pete Buttigieg (7%), and Andrew Yang (5%). No other candidate is preferred by more than 1%, while 9% say they don’t know which candidate they would choose.

Views on impeachment are divided along party lines: 83% of Democrats, 51% of independents, and 11% of Republicans think the president should be impeached and removed from office. Democrats are also much more likely than independents or Republicans to approve of the way the inquiry is being handled in Congress.

In other news, most Californians are concerned about wildfires (34% very, 29% somewhat) and power shutoffs (32% very, 27% somewhat). Governor Newsom gets mixed reviews for his handling of these issues: 46% of adults and 42% of likely voters approve, while 39% of adults and 46% of likely voters disapprove. Only about a third of Californians have either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in their utility providers.

Other survey highlights:

  • Six in ten Californians (61% adults, 63% likely voters) say things in the US are generally going in the wrong direction, but about half think the nation will have good times financially over the next 12 months.
  • Nearly two-thirds of adults (63%) say California is divided into the “haves” and the “have nots”; 41 percent say they are haves, while 44 percent see themselves as have nots.
  • Most Californians are very concerned about homelessness in their communities; majorities across regions say the number of homeless people in their local community has increased over the past 12 months.
  • A potential citizens’ initiative that would raise state income taxes on the wealthiest Californians to fund K–12 public schools has majority support. Fewer than half of likely voters favor two other measures—a school construction bond and a “split roll” property tax—that would benefit the K–12 system.

Homelessness is a growing concern in California, where nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population lives. The crisis comes amid sky-high housing costs and widening income inequality. PPIC’s latest survey explores residents’ perceptions of homelessness in their part of the state.

Eighty-five percent of Californians say they are concerned about the presence of homeless people in their local community, including 58 percent who are very concerned. Majorities across regions and demographic groups say they are very concerned about this issue.

In addition, about six in ten Californians (58%) say the presence of homeless people has increased in their local community over the past year. Four in ten say it has stayed the same, while only 3% say it has decreased.

The chart below allows you to take a closer look at how different Californians view this issue. Across regions, Los Angeles (63%) residents are the most likely to say the presence of homeless people has increased. This is in line with recent data showing Los Angeles County saw a spike in homelessness in 2019. African Americans (73%) and residents with annual household incomes under $40,000 (61%) are also especially likely to report an increase in homelessness in their community. Very small shares of Californians report a decrease in the presence of homeless people.

Given the complexity of the homelessness crisis, the governor and state legislature must think of creative and sustainable solutions. One possible approach is a law that would require local governments to construct enough shelter beds so that any homeless person requesting to come indoors could do so. When asked about this proposal, an overwhelming majority of Californians (76% adults, 70% likely voters) are in favor. There is support for the policy across parties, regions, and demographic groups.

As state policymakers work on their policy agendas for the next year, we will continue to monitor Californians’ views on homelessness and related policies closely.

This research was supported with funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle.

As California’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary draws closer, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders lead the rest of the field by a wide margin. However, many voters say they would consider supporting a candidate other than their current choice. These and other key findings from PPIC’s latest statewide survey were outlined by Rachel Lawler in Sacramento last Thursday.

Likely voters identifying as registered Democrats or as Democratic-leaning independents support Elizabeth Warren (23%), Joe Biden (22%), and Bernie Sanders (21%) at levels well above Kamala Harris (8%) and Pete Buttigieg (6%). No other candidate is preferred by more than 3 percent, and 9 percent say they don’t know which candidate they prefer. More than half of voters who expressed a preference would consider supporting another candidate.

The survey asked about a $15 billion bond for school and college construction that has been approved by the legislature for the March 2020 ballot. It has the support of two in three adults—but only 54 percent of likely voters. This narrow margin of support coincides with concern about the state’s economic outlook. Fewer than half (41% adults, 37% likely voters) expect good times financially in California during the next 12 months.

A potential November 2020 ballot measure that would amend Proposition 13 to tax commercial properties at their current market rate and direct some of the new revenue to K–12 public schools is favored by 57 percent of adults. However, fewer than half (47%) of likely voters favor the measure, and this share is down somewhat from April 2019 (54%). A potential state bond measure to fund water infrastructure is favored by 68 percent of adults and 57 percent of likely voters.

Other survey highlights:

  • Californians are most likely to name homelessness (15% adults, 16% likely voters) and jobs and the economy (15% adults, 13% likely voters) as the top issue facing the state. Other issues named include housing costs, immigration, and the environment.
  • Most Californians view immigrants as a benefit to the state, and half are at least somewhat worried about someone they know being deported as a result of increased federal immigration enforcement.
  • Two in three Californians think the Supreme Court should not overturn Roe v. Wade; more than half think some states are making it too difficult to get an abortion.
  • Half of Californians say they have a disaster plan and six in ten have a disaster supplies kit. Six in ten are very (28%) or somewhat (32%) worried about personal injury, property damage, or a major disruption of their routine as the result of a disaster.


This research was supported with funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle.

Less than a year before California’s presidential primary, likely voters who are Democrats or who lean Democratic are divided on strategy: is it more important for the party to nominate the candidate who seems mostly likely to defeat President Trump or the candidate whose positions align most closely their views? But almost all Californians see voting in the 2020 elections as very important. At a lunchtime briefing in Sacramento last Thursday, PPIC researcher Dean Bonner outlined these and other key findings from the latest statewide survey.

Two in three California likely voters say they will definitely or probably choose a candidate other than Trump. There is a huge partisan divide on this question: 93% of Democrats and 66% of independents would definitely or probably vote for another candidate if the election were held today, while 82% of Republicans would definitely or probably vote for Trump.

Most Californians say that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller did not clear the president of wrongdoing, and Californians are more likely that the nation as a whole to say impeachment proceedings should begin. But here, too, there is a partisan divide: 66% of Democrats say Congress should begin the process, compared to only 39% of independents and 9% of Republicans.

Other survey highlights:

  • A majority of Californians say their housing costs cause a financial strain; six in ten favor the governor’s plan to allocate $1 billion to address homelessness, and similar shares favor proposed new rules intended to create more affordable housing.
  • Three-quarters of Californians see participation in the 2020 Census as very important—but most have concerns about confidentiality.
  • An overwhelming majority are concerned about rising electricity bills in the wake of the PG&E bankruptcy.
  • Californians are concerned that the recent outbreak of measles could spread; most believe that vaccines are very safe and an overwhelming majority say vaccination against measles and other diseases should be required.

This post is part of a series examining challenges involved in the 2020 Census and what’s at stake for California. 

Accurately counting the homeless population is notoriously difficult. People experiencing homelessness can be hard to find—they tend to move around a lot, and at any given time, they might be in a shelter, in a car, outdoors, or couch surfing with family and friends. They may also conceal their living arrangements for privacy reasons or to avoid law enforcement.

The issue is particularly urgent for California as the 2020 Census approaches. California has the most homeless individuals of any state, with 130,000 people living in shelters or outdoors, according to estimates from January 2018. Since this count doesn’t include people staying temporarily with family or friends, it’s almost certainly an underestimate.

Undercounting homeless Californians could affect political representation and lead to reduced federal funding for low-income and homeless families, especially in urban areas with large homeless populations. In addition to determining congressional seats, the census is used to allocate billions of federal dollars for health care, education, and housing programs, including Section 8 housing vouchers for low-income families.

The goal of the census is to count all residents “in the right place,” meaning where they usually live and sleep. People who are couch surfing without a permanent place to live should be included in the household where they’re staying on Census Day (April 1, 2020).

What about people staying in shelters, living outdoors, and residing in other temporary locations? The census bureau has two approaches:

  • Census workers will interview and record responses from people experiencing homelessness at service-based locations or outdoors. These sites include emergency and transitional shelters, soup kitchens, mobile food vans, and targeted outdoor locations (e.g., under bridges, in parking lots, in encampments). This effort will take place from March 30 to April 1, 2020. Census workers in 2010 counted nearly 28,000 Californians in homeless shelters and about 64,000 Californians at other service-based locations and outdoors.
  • Census workers will go to “transitory” locations to collect responses from people who don’t have a usual home elsewhere. These locations include RV parks, motels, campgrounds, racetracks, circuses, carnivals, and marinas. This effort will take place from April 9 to May 4, 2020. Census workers in 2010 collected data from nearly 24,000 transitory locations in California.

The Census Bureau works with local partners to identify service-based and outdoor locations. Input on the latter is particularly important, as California has high shares of homeless individuals who are not living in shelters. The bureau’s new construction program allows governments to submit addresses for new shelters and transitory locations that are expected to be completed by April 1, 2020.

Getting input from local officials and on-the-ground organizations will be critical. They likely have the most up-to-date information about service-based and outdoor locations in their communities, as well as on those who have been displaced due to fire or other disasters. Individuals with experience working directly with the homeless population may also consider applying to be census workers—speaking with a trusted person from the community can help encourage participation among those who might otherwise distrust government officials.

Together, these efforts could go a long way toward motivating homeless individuals to participate in the census, while also ensuring that census workers have accurate information about where to count these Californians.

This research was supported with funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle.

California’s housing crisis affects college students around the state. Over the past eight years—even as tuition has been stable at California’s public colleges and universities—the cost of attending college has risen because housing costs have gone up. Most students at California’s community colleges and in the California State University system pay more for housing than they do for tuition. At the University of California, housing costs are on par with tuition (for those who pay full tuition).

One way students limit their housing costs is by living with their parents or other family members. For most students, living at home is much cheaper than living in housing provided by the university or in an apartment off campus. Housing costs vary across systems, but in every case living with family is much less expensive than other housing options. And the savings are large—as much as $10,000 a year.

figure - It’s Far Cheaper for College Students to Live at Home

In fact, the large majority of California undergraduates do live at home (69% in 2017), and that share has been increasing over the past few decades, according to the American Community Survey. Moreover, California college students are substantially more likely to live at home than their counterparts in the rest of the nation.

figure - Most California Undergraduates Live at Home

Partly, this difference reflects the mix of colleges in California. Community college students are especially likely to live with parents—not surprising given the broad geographic coverage of this system. And CSU students are more likely to live at home than UC students. But the difference in living situations between California students and their peers nationwide almost certainly reflects California’s higher housing costs.

Living at home while attending college can be a great way to reduce costs. But it also has a downside. Research suggests that students who live at home are less connected to their college—and less likely to graduate.

California’s colleges and universities cannot solve the state’s housing crisis, but many of them are working to expand on-campus housing opportunities. They are also working with the state to develop ways to expand grants to cover housing costs as well as tuition. The governor’s proposed budget includes $40 million to provide emergency housing support for UC and CSU students (including those struggling with homelessness).

With no quick solution to the high cost of housing in California, thoughtful actions will be critical to providing support to college students across the state.

As part of our Speaker Series on California’s Future, PPIC invites elected leaders from across the political spectrum to participate in public conversations. The purpose is to give Californians a better understanding of how our leaders are addressing the challenges facing our state.

As a mayoral candidate, London Breed promised to focus on homelessness and affordable housing—two major challenges for San Francisco and for California as a whole. Not surprisingly, these issues took center stage in her conversation with PPIC president Mark Baldassare earlier this week.

“It is no secret that homelessness is one of the biggest challenges that’s facing our city, and that also comes with the need to build more housing,” said Breed. “I’ve been on a mission! I hired a housing delivery director—someone whose sole purpose is to cut back on bureaucratic red tape that gets in the way of building housing.”

Breed stressed the need for new approaches to behavioral health issues that complicate homelessness: “We have to think about this challenge differently and we have to make hard decisions.” For example, she favors strengthening conservatorship laws. She acknowledged that conservatorship for mentally ill adults is “very controversial.” But, she added, “our jails are being used as mental health facilities, and that’s not a solution.” She is also pushing for safe injection sites, which can provide substance abuse treatment when people are ready to seek it. “Treatment on demand is something we have to start looking at.”

The mayor is also committed to trying new strategies in other policy areas, such as police-community relations and education. “I do think we need to take some risks and propose some things that may make people uncomfortable but ultimately may help us to get the kind of results that will . . . make a difference.”

But Breed also emphasized accountability. Explaining why she wants to hire a mental health director, she said, “We’re a little bit all over the place right now and I want us to address those issues, organize things a lot better for the purposes of helping people.” In this and other areas, she said, “I want to see us make the right investments.”

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