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Press Release · January 27, 2016

Californians Split on Budget Plan—Few Favor Raising Fees or Taxes to Fund Transportation

In Presidential Race, Clinton Ranks Highest In Favorability, Trump In Unfavorability

SAN FRANCISCO, January 27, 2016—Californians are divided over Governor Brown’s 2016–17 budget plan, with support much lower than in recent years when his proposals included no new taxes. This is among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with support from The James Irvine Foundation.

When read a brief description of the governor’s proposal, 48 percent of adults and 46 percent of likely voters favor it (46% adults, 50% likely voters oppose). While a solid majority of Democrats (64%) are in favor, majorities of Republicans (68%) and independents (54%) are opposed.

Brown is calling for increased spending on K–12 and higher education, health and human services, and prisons and courts. As he has in recent years, he proposes paying down debt and building up the rainy day fund. In contrast to his recent budget proposals, his plan this year includes tax and fee increases. He calls for increased spending on transportation infrastructure funded in part by a new fee on vehicles and an increase in the gasoline tax. To fund Med-Cal, he proposes a tax on health care insurers.

Support for the governor’s plan was much higher in the past few years (69% adults, 66% likely voters in January 2013; 77% adults, 75% likely voters in January 2014; 75% adults, 79% likely voters in January 2015). But his January 2012 budget proposal—which included tax proposals—had similar levels of support (50% adults, 48% likely voters).

While the governor proposes to increase spending on transportation infrastructure by raising fees and gas taxes, most Californians prefer other methods. When asked how they would most like to pay for increased spending on roads and infrastructure, a plurality of adults (31%) prefer to use only surplus budget funds. Fewer (24%) prefer issuing state bonds. Just 17 percent prefer increased vehicle registration fees and 13 percent favor an increased state gas tax. The preferences of likely voters are nearly identical.

Today, a record-low 42 percent of Californians say the state budget situation is a big problem. The survey asks whether residents would prefer using a projected budget surplus of several billion dollars to pay down state debt and build up the reserve or restore some of the funding that was cut from social service programs in recent years. Adults are evenly divided (48% for each), while likely voters prefer paying down debt (54%) to restoring social service funding (42%).

“The governor’s budget proposal is receiving mixed reviews from the California public,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “Californians are divided on whether to use surplus revenues to restore funding for social programs or build up the reserve, and most residents would rather fund road improvements through surplus funds and state bonds than vehicle fees and gasoline taxes.”

State voters may be asked to decide several issues this fall. The survey asks about the importance of four that may appear on the ballot. Most adults say the issue of stricter gun laws (57%) and increasing the state tax on cigarettes to fund health care (53%) are very important to them. Fewer (33%) say that requiring voter approval for revenue bonds is very important. A fourth issue—changing the public employee pension system—is very important to 42 percent of residents. However, near the end of the survey fielding period, advocates of an effort to change the pension system withdrew their measure.

Most Republicans Have Favorable Views of Cruz, Rubio, Trump

With the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary approaching, Californians are divided when asked if they are satisfied with their choice of candidates (48% satisfied, 47% not satisfied). A slight majority of likely voters (52%) say they are satisfied. The survey asks whether Californians have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the presidential candidates who are polling at higher than 10 percent for their party’s nomination in recent national media surveys. Overall, only Hillary Clinton receives a favorable rating from a majority of Californians (55% favorable, 41% unfavorable). Bernie Sanders is viewed favorably by 46 percent of Californians (40% unfavorable). Among likely voters, 47 percent have a favorable view of Clinton and 53 percent view Sanders favorably. Solid majorities of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Clinton (72%) and Sanders (62%). About half of independents have favorable views of both candidates (Clinton 51%, Sanders 49%). Younger Californians are as likely to have a favorable view of Clinton (52%) as Sanders (54%), while older residents are more likely to favor Clinton. Across racial/ethnic groups, whites are more likely to have a favorable opinion of Sanders (49%) than Clinton (38%), while Asians, blacks, and Latinos are more likely to view Clinton favorably.

Fewer than a third of Californians have a favorable opinion of any of the four Republican candidates the survey asks about:

  • Ben Carson: 29 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable
  • Ted Cruz: 32 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable
  • Marco Rubio: 32 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable
  • Donald Trump: 22 percent favorable, 74 percent unfavorable

Majorities of Republicans have favorable opinions of Trump (55%), Cruz (54%), and Rubio (54%). Among independents, about a third have a favorable impression of each of the Republican candidates the survey asks about.

“California likely voters are closely watching the presidential election, and a slim majority express satisfaction with the choices of candidates,” Baldassare said. “Hillary Clinton generates the highest favorability rating, while Donald Trump is receiving the highest unfavorability rating.”

Most See Immigrants as Benefit

The survey asks about a series of issues being debated in the presidential campaign. On immigration, 82 percent of Californians and 78 percent of likely voters say undocumented immigrants should be able to stay in the US legally if certain requirements are met. Far fewer (17% adults, 21% likely voters) say they should not be allowed to stay. Overwhelming majorities of Democrats (90%) and independents (83%) say undocumented immigrants should be able to stay, as do a solid majority of Republicans (60%). A record-high 68 percent of Californians say immigrants are a benefit to the state because of their hard work and job skills, while 27 percent say they are a burden because they use public services.

Terrorism Concerns Rise Sharply

A month after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, a record-high 43 percent of Californians say terrorism and security are a big problem in the state today. In December 2001—shortly after the September 11 attacks—31 percent expressed this view, and just 24 percent did so when the survey last asked the question in September 2009. Today, half of Inland Empire residents (52%) say terrorism and security are a big problem in the state; fewer hold this view in other regions (45% Orange/San Diego Counties, 45% Central Valley, 43% Los Angeles, and 32% San Francisco Bay Area).

How well do Californians think the US government is doing in reducing the threat of terrorism? A solid majority (61%) say the government is doing either very or fairly well (22% not too well, 16% not at all well).

Majorities Want More Gun Regulation

In the aftermath of the San Bernardino attacks and with the possibility of new gun regulations on the November ballot, 62 percent of Californians say the government does not do enough to regulate access to guns, while 35 percent say the government goes too far in restricting the right of citizens to own guns. Findings among likely voters are similar (59% not enough, 38% too far). Asked their views of President Obama’s actions on gun control, 39 percent say he has not gone far enough, 34 percent say he has taken the right amount of action, and 25 percent say he has gone too far. Asians (56%), blacks (52%), and Latinos (47%) are much more likely than whites (27%) to say the president has not gone far enough. A majority of Californians (57%) say they are very concerned (28%) or somewhat concerned (29%) about the threat of a mass shooting in the area where they live.

“In the wake of the San Bernardino attack, record numbers of Californians say that terrorism and security are a big problem, and many are concerned about the threat of mass shootings where they live,” Baldassare said. “Majorities of Californians place importance on stricter gun laws and want the government to do more to regulate guns.”

Crime Concerns Dip—Most See Justice System as Biased

Half of California adults say violence and street crime in their communities is either a big problem (20%) or somewhat of one (31%). This is down 7 points from last January (24% big problem, 34% somewhat of a problem). Latinos (60%) and blacks (52%) are more likely than whites (44%) to say crime is a problem in their communities. Two-thirds of Californians say their local police are doing an excellent job (29%) or a good job (36%) in controlling crime in their communities. Whites (74%) are the most likely to rate local police as excellent or good, followed by Asians (65%), Latinos (57%), and blacks (44%). After a year in which protests have drawn attention to police treatment of minorities, a solid majority of Californians (61%) say blacks and other minorities do not receive treatment equal to whites in the criminal justice system, up slightly from January 2015 (55%). Most whites (55%) Asians (60%), and Latinos (64%) express this view, and it is most commonly expressed among black Californians (92%).

More Key Findings

  • Brown’s job approval hovers near record high—pages 7, 15
    The governor’s approval rating is 58 percent among adults, while President Obama’s is 62 percent. Californians give the state legislature a higher rating (46%) than they give to Congress (32%).
  • Water, economy seen as most important issues—page 8
    Californians name water and the drought (17%) and the economy (16%) as the most important issues for the governor and legislature to work on in 2016.
  • Californians’ knowledge of budget is low——page 10
    Asked to choose the largest area of state spending, Californians are most likely to select—incorrectly—prisons and corrections (42%). Only 15 percent correctly choose K–12 education. What should be the highest spending priority? Californians are most likely to name K–12 education.

About the Survey

The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,704 California adult residents—half (852) interviewed on landline telephones and half (852) on cell phones—from January 10–19, 2016. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences. The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.5 percent for all adults, ±3.8 percent for the 1,394 registered voters, and ±4.4 percent for the 1,043 likely voters. For more information on methodology, see page 25.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.

PPIC is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.