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    • Most Californians see ocean and beach conditions as very important.
      Three in four Californians (77%) say the condition of the ocean and beaches is very important to California’s future economy and quality of life. Across regions as well as age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups, about seven in ten or more express this view. While solid majorities across parties say ocean and beach conditions are very important, Democrats (84%) and independents (75%) are more likely than Republicans (61%) to hold this opinion. When asked about rising sea levels as a possible impact of global warming, seven in ten Californians are very (42%) or somewhat (29%) concerned. Across racial/ethnic groups, African Americans (66%) are the most likely to be very concerned, followed by Asian Americans (45%), Latinos (42%), and whites (38%). Concern is higher among Democrats (56%) than among independents (41%) and Republicans (17%).

Importance of the condition of the ocean and beaches for California’s future

figure - Importance of the condition of the ocean and beaches for California’s future

SOURCE: PPIC Statewide Survey, July 2019. The margin of error for all adults is ±3.4%.The margins of error for subgroups are larger.

    • Overwhelming majorities see plastics and marine debris as a big problem.
      An overwhelming majority of Californians see plastics and marine debris as a big problem (72%) or somewhat of a problem (18%) along the part of the coast closest to them. Solid majorities across age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups say plastics and marine debris are a big problem. Across racial/ethnic groups, African Americans (80%) and Latinos (79%) are the most likely to say this is a big problem, followed by Asian Americans (72%) and whites (65%). Younger Californians are slightly more likely than older Californians to hold this view. Democrats (80%) and independents (69%) are far more likely than Republicans (44%) to see plastics and marine debris as a big problem.

Seriousness of plastics and marine debris along the coast closest to you

figure - Seriousness of plastics and marine debris along the coast closest to you

SOURCE: PPIC Statewide Survey, July 2019. The margin of error for all adults is ±3.4%.The margins of error for subgroups are larger.

    • Most see urban development that harms wildlife habitats and overfishing as a problem.
      About eight in ten Californians say urban development that harms wildlife habitats and endangered species is a big problem (44%) or somewhat of a problem (34%) along the coast closest to them. Across racial/ethnic groups, Latinos (56%) and African Americans (53%) are the most likely to say this is a big problem, followed by Asian Americans (42%) and whites (34%). When asked about commercial overfishing, most residents say it is a big problem (35%) or somewhat of a problem (35%) along the part of the coast closest to them. Residents of the south coast (35%) and the north and central coast (33%) are about equally likely to say overfishing is a big problem. On both of these issues, Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to see this harm as a big problem.

Seriousness of urban development harming wildlife habitats along the coast closest to you

figure - Seriousness of urban development harming wildfire habitats along with coast closest to you

SOURCE: PPIC Statewide Survey, July 2019. The margin of error for all adults is ±3.4%.The margins of error for subgroups are larger.

Seriousness of overfishing along the coast closest to you

figure - Seriousness of overfishing along the coast closest to you

SOURCE: PPIC Statewide Survey, July 2019. The margin of error for all adults is ±3.4%.The margins of error for subgroups are larger.

    • Two in three Californians oppose drilling off the California coast.
      A strong majority of Californians (67%) oppose allowing more oil drilling off the California coast. Only 28% favor allowing it—this is close to the lowest level of support for offshore drilling (25% in July 2017) since PPIC began asking about it in 2003. An overwhelming majority of Democrats (81%) and a strong majority of independents (69%) oppose more drilling, while a majority of Republicans (57%) are in favor. Residents of the north and central coast (74%) are somewhat more likely than those in the south coast (65%) to oppose more offshore drilling (63% of inland residents oppose). Solid majorities across regions and across age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups are opposed.

Support for oil drilling off the California coast

figure - Support for oil drilling off the California coast

SOURCE: PPIC Statewide Survey, July 2019. The margin of error for all adults is ±3.4%.The margins of error for subgroups are larger.

NOTES: “North and central coast” refers to the coastal counties from San Luis Obispo County northward to Del Norte County, including all San Francisco Bay Area counties. “South coast” includes coastal counties from Santa Barbara County southward.

    • Overwhelming majorities favor wind power and wave energy.
      An overwhelming majority of Californians (72%) support allowing wind power and wave energy projects off the California coast. A similar share of residents (73%) held this view in a 2017 PPIC survey. An overwhelming majority of Democrats (80%) and independents (81%) and a strong majority of Republicans (66%) are in favor of this proposal. Residents of the north and central coast (77%) are somewhat more likely than those in the south coast (69%) to favor wind power and wave energy projects off the California coast (73% of inland residents favor). More than six in ten across regions and age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups are in favor.

Support for coastal wind and wave energy

figure- Support for coastal wind and wave energy

SOURCE: PPIC Statewide Survey, July 2019. The margin of error for all adults is ±3.4%.The margins of error for subgroups are larger.

NOTES: “North and central coast” refers to the coastal counties from San Luis Obispo County northward to Del Norte County, including all San Francisco Bay Area counties. “South coast” includes coastal counties from Santa Barbara County southward.


Related Content

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and the Environment, July 2019

This research was supported with funding from Arjay and Frances F. Miller Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, and the Flora Family Foundation.

Just three months ahead of a consequential midterm election, California and the federal government continue to move in very different directions on environmental policy. Last week, the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back strict automobile emission standards were strongly criticized by the Brown administration. State officials have also pushed back on federal efforts to increase offshore oil drilling and the president’s decision to exit the Paris Agreement on climate change. Meanwhile, personal experiences with a prolonged drought and recent severe wildfires are raising Californians’ awareness about the impacts of climate change. Where do California voters stand on environmental issues and what are the implications for November?

Californians’ support for environmental protection runs deep. Consider emissions standards. In the July PPIC survey, 60% of California registered voters say that they are in favor of setting higher emissions standards for automobiles. Majorities of voters across age, education, gender, income, and racial/ethnic groups support this environmental policy. Majorities of Democrats (74%) and independents (62%) and 34% of Republicans are in favor. Notably, 52% of registered voters living in the nine competitive House districts—as rated by the Cook Political Report—favor higher auto emission standards.

Or take another area of state-federal policy conflict over the environment, offshore oil drilling. Sixty-six percent of California registered voters are opposed to more drilling off the California coast. Opposition is high among Democrats (82%) and independents (66%), and reaches 40% among Republicans. Majorities oppose it in both the coastal and inland regions of the state and across age, education, gender, income, and racial/ethnic groups. As for the registered voters living in the nine competitive House districts, 56% are opposed to allowing more offshore drilling off the California coast.

These views on particular environmental policy issues are similar to larger concerns related to global warming. About two in three California registered voters believe that global warming has already begun (67%), say that they are very concerned about its possible impact on more severe wildfires (64%), and favor the state law that requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (67%). Majorities of Democrats and independents share these views, along with substantial proportions of Republicans and majorities of voters across regions and age, education, gender, income, and racial/ethnic groups. In the nine competitive House districts, majorities of registered voters believe that global warming has already begun (59%), say they are very concerned about the impact of global warming on more severe wildfires (56%), and favor the state law that requires greenhouse gas emission reductions (62%).

Personal views about global warming could shape the size and profile of the electorate this year. Majorities of California voters say that the issue of global warming is extremely or very important to them personally (62%). If this high level of personal concern motivates voter turnout, it will provide a partisan advantage (80% Democrats, 61% independents, 29% Republicans). It could also serve as a catalyst in several Democratic-leaning groups with a low propensity to vote (64% under age 35; 68% earning less than $40,000; 69% renters; 70% Latinos). Moreover, in the nine competitive House districts, majorities of registered voters (55%) say that global warming is extremely or very important to them personally.

In the midterm election context, Californians are indicating strong opinions on environmental matters. A record-high number of registered voters say that the gubernatorial candidates’ positions on the environment are very important in determining their vote (39% 2002, 46% 2006, 42% 2010, 40% 2014, 53% 2018).

California voters say that they want statewide candidates to push back rather than work with the Trump administration on environmental issues (53% to 40%), and a majority disapprove of the way that President Trump is handling environmental issues (67%). Since the midterm elections are in part a referendum on the president, it is perhaps most significant that a majority of registered voters living in the nine competitive House districts disapprove of President Trump’s handling of environmental issues (60%)—similar to their disapproval of his overall job performance (58%).

Californians’ environmental priorities are high on our list of political wildcards in this important midterm election. Stay tuned as the PPIC Statewide Survey monitors this trend and other topics in our pre-election polling.

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