In the midst of Governor Newsom introducing a historic budget—deemed the California Comeback Plan—just over half of Californians approve of the governor. Dean Bonner, PPIC associate survey director and research fellow, presented this and other findings from PPIC’s May statewide survey and discussed key takeaways with Mark Baldassare, president and CEO. Views on the recall election also mirror support for the governor, with 57% of likely voters preferring to keep Newsom in office if a recall election were held and 4 in 10 likely voters saying they would vote to remove him.
Bonner expressed surprise at how much views on critical issues around the state have changed over the last three months, and ran through the numbers: Newsom’s approval on handling COVID, up 11 points; the view that the state is in a recession, down 21 points; Californians expecting good times economically in the U.S., up 11 points; and belief that the worst of coronavirus is behind us, up 31 points since January. “This is setting the stage for how people are feeling about the recall,” Bonner said.
Baldassare noted how little attitudes had changed toward the recall election: 40% of likely voters wanted to remove the governor in May and 40% felt the same in March, similar to the 38% who didn’t vote for Newsom in 2018.
Today, a record low 36% view the state budget situation as a big problem. Offering perspective on that number, Bonner explained that a record high 81% viewed the budget as a big problem in May 2010 during the Great Recession, when Governor Schwarzenegger faced a $19.9 billion budget gap.
Amid optimism around the budget, however, jobs and the economy and COVID are still top-of-mind issues for Californians—although as the state emerges from the pandemic, COVID has fallen to second. “I think Californians will be looking over the next few months at what’s going on with our economy,” Baldassare said. “We have high unemployment—things are improving, but will they improve uniformly?”
While about half of Californians believe their finances are strong today, most recognize a gap is widening between rich and poor. “They are perceiving a growth in the amount of inequality in incomes between those who have decent economic resources and those who don’t,” Baldassare said, recognition that is occurring across regions. In the same vein, homelessness and housing costs remain a top concern as housing prices continue to rise along with the number of people experiencing homelessness in the state.
And most Californians agree the government should be doing more to help. “We’ve consistently found when there have been policies proposed to do things like another round of stimulus checks or rental and utility assistance, Californians are very supportive,” Bonner said. “In fact, regarding rent and utility assistance, there’s even bipartisan agreement that this is something the state should be doing.”