While inflation, housing costs, and energy prices are top of mind for nearly six in ten Californians, a once-pivotal issue has faded into the background for respondents to PPIC’s May Statewide Survey. “Just 2% of adults see COVID as most important,” said Dean Bonner, associate survey director. Last week, Bonner presented findings from the most recent survey and discussed takeaways with survey analyst Rachel Lawler.
Rising prices are causing financial hardship for two in three adults, according to survey results, with 36% saying the hardship is serious. Amid these and other concerns, over half of Californians are pessimistic about the direction of the state. Bonner noted that sentiment has reversed in the last few months—and residents have not expressed this depth of pessimism about California since 2012.
“You can argue those views are optimistic compared to how Californians feel about the US,” Lawler said. “Sixty-three percent are saying the country is going in the wrong direction.” This is also the highest share in over a decade, with partisan agreement.
Worries over personal finances and the direction of the state, however, do not extend to worries over state finances, as a record low share of Californians are concerned about the state’s budget. “The budget surplus has ballooned to nearly $100 billion,” Bonner said, but adults are divided on how to spend extra funds. At the same time, over half of likely voters favor Governor Newsom’s $18 million proposal to address inflation with a tax rebate to vehicle owners and free public transportation for three months.
As Californians debate where their tax dollars should go, what are their candidate preferences in the 2022 midterm election for the House of Representatives? Fifty-five percent of likely voters say they would vote for or lean toward the Democratic candidate, which is a wider margin of support than in March.
Bonner offered a regional breakdown of the midterm’s outlook: Orange/San Diego voters prefer the Democratic candidate by a 13-point advantage, while in Los Angeles the advantage is 32 points; the Democrat has a 41-point advantage in the Bay Area. “We’ve had close races in recent years in Orange/San Diego, so it’s something to watch,” Bonner said.
Meanwhile, the Central Valley is closely divided, and the Inland Empire shows an 8-point advantage for the Republican. Lawler said, “California lost a seat in the House of Representatives; these races will be consequential in November.”
Likely voters are also more likely to favor a candidate who supports Roe v. Wade, with some differences across regions. The difference between women and men, however, surprised Bonner. In PPIC’s April survey, 76% of men and 81% of women preferred to keep Roe rather than overturn it. But, in terms of support for candidates, two in three women support a candidate who will keep Roe in place, while just 48% of men do so, a dynamic that Bonner will be interested in following.