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Blog Post · June 15, 2023

Video: Californians and Their Government

photo - California State Capitol

Despite continued signs of strength from the labor market, Californians are increasingly pessimistic about the state’s economic outlook and the direction of the nation. Last week, PPIC survey analysts Rachel Lawler and Deja Thomas discussed Californians’ views on the economy, approval ratings of public officials, and other key insights from our June survey.

Nearly seven in ten Californians expect bad economic times for the state in the next 12 months. Lawler noted that this is “similar to the level of pessimism that we saw at the end of 2020, when we were still in the middle of the COVID pandemic.” Pessimism about the state of the nation is also widespread. More than seven in ten adults (72%) say things in the US are going in the wrong direction, close to the record high in 2008 (74%) during the Great Recession.

Although inflation has been cooling in recent months, high prices are still affecting Californians’ pocketbooks. A majority (57%) say they have experienced financial hardships due to rising prices, with 76% of those making less than $40,000 a year saying that they have experienced hardships.

When it comes to elected officials, 56% of likely voters approve of Governor Newsom, President Biden, and Senator Alex Padilla, and half approve of the state legislature. Fewer approve of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (32%), Senator Dianne Feinstein (27%), and the US Congress (21%).

Unsurprisingly, partisans are sharply divided in their approval ratings, with the exception of universally low ratings for Congress (24% Democrats, 22% Republicans, 20% independents). Notably, approval of Senator Feinstein among Democrats has fallen from 56% in October 2022 to 41% today. Senator Feinstein has announced that she will not run for reelection next year, but there have been calls for her to resign amid concerns that health issues have disrupted her ability to serve.

Our survey highlighted a stark partisan divide on many issues, but a few areas of bipartisan agreement also emerged. For example, majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents all say that poverty is at least somewhat of a problem in their part of the state and that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting larger, said Thomas.

Some aspects of immigration policy also sparked bipartisan consensus. Though partisans are divided on providing health care coverage for undocumented immigrants in the state, Lawler noted that majorities across partisan groups (94% of Democrats, 79% of independents, and 59% of Republicans) favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants if they meet certain requirements, including a waiting period and passing criminal background checks.

Stay tuned for more from the PPIC Statewide Survey as we continue to track Californians’ views on the economy, politics, and other critical issues facing the state.


Alex Padilla approval ratings California State Legislature Dianne Feinstein Gavin Newsom health care Immigrants in California immigration inflation Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Political Landscape Poverty & Inequality Statewide Survey undocumented immigrants US Congress