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Blog Post · October 6, 2023

Video: Californians and Their Government

photo - California State Capitol

Californians name economic conditions as the most important issue facing the state, and three in four say they are less comfortable than they were six months ago making a major purchase like a home or a car. Last week, PPIC survey analyst Deja Thomas discussed these and other key takeaways from our latest survey with associate survey director Dean Bonner.

Nearly three in ten (28%) adults say jobs, the economy, or inflation are the top issue facing Californians today. The economy has been the leading issue since May 2022; prior to that, COVID topped the list. In January 2020, before the pandemic, 8% named jobs and the economy as the top issue, said Bonner.

Economic concerns may be fueling pessimism about the direction of the state. Today, 55% of adults say things in the state are going in the wrong direction, up 11 points from a year ago. About two-thirds now expect bad economic times in the next 12 months.

Californians also express a great deal of concern about mental well-being. Nearly nine in ten—including overwhelming majorities across regions and racial/ethnic groups—believe that the US is facing a mental health crisis. “[More than] one in three Californians say that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health,” said Thomas. Four in ten parents with children under age 18 say the pandemic has negatively affected their children’s mental health.

Despite key developments in the GOP primary race, including the start of candidate debates and the indictments of former president Donald Trump, preferences among Republican likely voters have stayed relatively stable, with about half favoring Trump. Meanwhile, support for the next-leading candidate, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, has dropped to 14%, from 24% in July.

Opinions have shifted more in the US Senate primary race. (Our event took place prior to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s death and Governor Newsom’s appointment of Laphonza Butler to her seat.) More than four in ten voters support one of three Democratic congressmembers: “two in ten likely voters say they would vote for Adam Schiff if the election were held today, 15% say they would vote for Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee holds 8% of the vote,” said Thomas. In July, the same three candidates were each polling in the teens (Porter 19%, Schiff 16%, and Lee 13%).

Though partisans diverge sharply in their views toward political candidates, many agree that a third party is needed because the traditional parties do an inadequate job. Six in ten Republicans and seven in ten Democrats say this, along with roughly eight in ten independents. “Even though California is a blue state, there’s a feeling among Democrats and Republicans, but especially among independents, that a third party might be a good thing,” said Bonner.

Stay tuned as the PPIC Statewide Survey continues to track Californians’ opinions on the most important issues of the day and their preferences ahead of the 2024 primary and general elections.


2024 Election Adam Schiff approval ratings Barbara Lee coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump elections GOP Primary inflation jobs Katie Porter mental health Political Landscape presidential primary Ron DeSantis Statewide Survey US Congress US Senate