PPIC fielded its latest statewide survey soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, as gas and consumer prices were rising and COVID cases falling in California. In a recent briefing, associate survey director Dean Bonner shared takeaways from the report, including Californians’ support for a US response to Russia that could push up gas prices and opinions on keeping COVID restrictions.
Even if it means higher energy prices, a majority of Californians support the US sanctioning Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. Californians were already facing rising consumer prices, linked to inflation, before gas prices spiked. For about a third of residents, and nearly half of lower-income residents, rising prices have caused serious financial hardship.
Housing expenses also continue to be a concern, with just over half of Californians worried about having enough money to pay their rent or mortgage. “While a solid majority of both homeowners and renters say that the affordability of housing is problem,” Bonner said, “renters are twice as likely as homeowners to say that they are very concerned about being able to pay for the cost of their housing.” Renters and those with children are most likely to consider moving, as a record-high share of adults (63%) are seriously considering leaving their part of California.
Even as Californians worry over fluctuating costs, their approval of elected officials has remained stable over the past year—with one exception: President Biden. “Since last March, we’ve seen approval drop 15 points among all adults,” Bonner said. “There’s also been a double-digit drop among Democrats; and while the drop is only 9 points among Republicans, his approval fell by nearly half—from 20% to 11%.” The precipitous drop in approval for President Biden may be tied to inflation and rising gas prices.
Steady approval ratings for state officials, however, may signal some lack of enthusiasm around the upcoming midterm election. Four in ten likely voters say that voting in this year’s midterm is more important than voting in previous years. “Some of this has to do with who is holding the office of the presidency,” Bonner said. Likely voters in competitive districts, though, still see the midterm vote as important.
With the US appearing to enter an endemic stage of coronavirus, Californians still express interest in controlling the spread of COVID-19. A solid majority prefer an approach that tries to control spreading the virus even if it means having some restrictions on normal life, while 3 in 10 prefer no restrictions even if it hurts efforts to control the spread. There is partisan divide over the issue, and men support restrictions less than women do.
Bonner noted the state’s recent announcement that certain large gatherings will no longer require proof of vaccination or a negative test, beginning on April 1. But PPIC’s survey—which specifically asked about large outdoor gatherings or indoor areas like restaurants, bars, or gyms—revealed that about 6 in 10 Californians favor caution.
“Across regions, people support proof of vaccination to enter some of these spaces,” Bonner said. “It seems the state is acting in a way that is following good data and supporting public health, but the public would be okay if these requirements were still in place—at least some of the public.”