As we approach the two-year mark of the pandemic’s onset, COVID-19 continues to top the list when Californians are asked to name the most important issue for state leaders to work on. Homelessness, the economy, crime, and housing costs are also weighing on Californians’ minds. At a virtual event last week, PPIC survey analyst Deja Thomas and associate survey director Dean Bonner discussed insights into these and other topics from our February survey.
Though the majority (67%) of Californians believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, concerns about getting the coronavirus have increased amid the omicron surge. Today, more than four in ten say they are very or somewhat concerned about getting the coronavirus and requiring hospitalization, compared to fewer than three in ten last May.
The overwhelming majority of Californians (82%) have been vaccinated against COVID. However, “there’s a small, stable group of about one in ten that, since last year, have continually said they will definitely not get the coronavirus vaccine,” said Bonner. Notably, only 11% of unvaccinated Californians say that the omicron variant has made them more likely to get the vaccine.
In a time of economic uncertainty, about half of Californians think the state is in a recession, and six in ten say that recent price increases have caused their household severe or moderate financial hardship. Thomas noted that lower-income adults, Latinos, Republicans, and Inland Empire residents are more likely to have experienced severe hardship due to price increases.
Concerns about crime are on the rise. A solid majority believe violence and street crime are a problem in their local community (34% big problem, 31% somewhat of a problem). “This is a record high saying [violence and street crime] are a big problem,” said Bonner. “We see double-digit increases across most regions and many racial/ethnic groups.”
Overall, the national mood has darkened from a year ago—56% of Californians say the US is headed in the wrong direction (43% said this last January). In addition, 59% say President Biden and Congress will not be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year (26% last January). However, this pattern is somewhat typical after a new administration enters the White House. “People start out with a lot of optimism . . . but [early ratings] tend to mellow out or even decline,” said Thomas.
Opinions about California are somewhat rosier. Half of residents say things in the state are going in the right direction, and about six in ten believe Governor Newsom and the legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot. Without a doubt, there are many issues Californians are hoping state leaders will address in the year ahead.