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Blog Post · December 13, 2023

Video: Californians and Their Government

photo - California State Capitol

As the March 5 primary approaches, the PPIC survey gauges preferred candidates along with how Californians feel about economic conditions in the state and at home. Last Thursday, survey analysts Lauren Mora and Deja Thomas outlined findings from the December survey and discussed key takeaways, including reactions to US involvement in the Middle East and Ukraine.

The primary race for US Senator will determine the top two candidates who appear on the November ballot; currently, likely voters favor Adam Schiff (21%) and Katie Porter (16%), both Democratic congresspersons. For the presidential primary, Republicans continue to say they will choose Donald Trump as their candidate. However, for the 2024 presidential election in November, Californians would choose Biden by a wide margin.

Ahead of the primary, housing costs and homelessness are two top issues for Californians. A striking share (21%) have personal experience with homelessness, either from being homeless themselves (10%) or knowing a close family member (11%) who has been homeless. Almost half of African Americans said that homelessness had been part of their personal or family experience.

Across California, people report seeing someone homeless daily or every few days, and most support policies to help. Democrats and Republicans alike favor actions such as short-term financial support, converting office space to affordable housing, and building developments of tiny homes.

Proposition 1, a behavioral health and bond measure on the March ballot that enjoys majority support, provides funds to help with homelessness—including money for housing intervention and assistance for veterans with substance abuse disorders. “People are concerned about the presence of homelessness; [it’s] consistently in the top three issues the state is facing,” Mora said. “We did ask about substance abuse and lack of mental health services … Californians see these as factors; it’s not surprising there’s such large support for Proposition 1.”

Most Californians also want the state to develop more policies to make both homebuying and renting accessible, as half of all Californians say that housing costs are causing them financial strain. “Some residents are definitely feeling more strain than others,” Thomas said, pointing to regional variations. “Majorities of residents in the Inland Empire and LA say they face … financial strain from the cost of housing.”

Beyond concerns about personal finances and state issues, Californians are paying attention to conflicts on the other side of the world. Nearly equal shares think the US has a responsibility (37%) to address fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas as those who think the US should not get involved (36%). Majorities across demographic groups and regions say the US should not take sides in the Israel—Palestinian conflict. However, Californians ages 18 to 34 are more likely to say the US should take Palestine’s side while Californians over age 55 tend to say the US should side with Israel.

Californians are also divided on whether the US should authorize more funding to Ukraine, with partisans showing the biggest differences in opinion.

In light of the controversial topics and candidates covered by the survey, Thomas noted that most Californians find talking about politics stressful—and they tend to be pessimistic about people with different views coming together. “This could play a role in election turnout,” Thomas said. “From a survey perspective, I’m eager to see how things change as we get closer to the March primary.”


2024 Election Adam Schiff Donald Trump elections homelessness Housing Israel-Hamas conflict Joe Biden Katie Porter mental health personal finances Political Landscape presidential primary Proposition 1 Statewide Survey Ukraine US Senate voter turnout voters