From the San Francisco Bay Area to the Central Valley, Californians cite the current drought and water supply as the most pressing environmental issue facing the state. Residents also list wildfires and climate change among their top three concerns. PPIC survey analyst Rachel Lawler discussed these and other takeaways from the July Statewide Survey with PPIC president and CEO Mark Baldassare.
“Many Californians are on edge because of the combination of the drought, the wildfires, and the heat that we’re experiencing,” Baldassare said. “In our poll, about 8 in 10 Californians said that they felt that climate change was contributing to more droughts. They also said that it was contributing to more wildfires.”
Most Californians have some confidence in the state’s ability to respond to wildfires, and they have given consistently positive ratings to Governor Newsom on environmental issues—although numbers have dropped from last July. “About 6 in 10 Californians say they approve of the job Newsom is doing on the environment,” Baldassare said, emphasizing that these ratings offer a window into how Californians perceive the governor’s handling of environmental issues as the recall election approaches.
Governor Newsom has introduced several proposals intended to combat climate change. Californians are especially supportive of his “30 by 30” executive order: 76% of adults and likely voters favor the goal to conserve 30% of California’s land, inland water, and ocean areas by the year 2030. A proposed ban on issuing new hydraulic fracturing permits starting in 2024 has support from about two in three adults and likely voters. But Californians are divided on banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035, with 49% in favor and 49% opposed.
On environmental issues at the national level, Californians are signaling strong support for the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan, which aims to reduce the effects of global climate change. “Sixty-one percent said that they thought it was something that would help the US economy,” Baldassare said.
Most Californians want to prioritize developing alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydrogen rather than exploring for and producing more oil, coal, and natural gas. “The strength of support across regions, partisan groups, and demographic groups when it comes to alternative energy versus fossil fuels is the big story of the survey,” Baldassare said. “It comes right back to the connection people are making between climate change and the issues that we’re facing.”
Lawler noted that while California seems to be closely aligned with the Biden administration’s policies, two in three adults favor the state making its own policies on climate change. “I think that speaks to California’s desire to be a leader on climate change,” she said.