PPIC Logo Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Press Release · February 2, 2022

Fewer Californians Say the Worst of the Pandemic Is Behind Us, and the National Outlook Has Darkened from a Year Ago


Related Event Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government · February 3, 2022 Contact

Steven Bliss
Director of Digital Strategy

Email 415-291-4412

SAN FRANCISCO, February 2, 2022—Amid the continuing effects of the omicron COVID variant, two in three Californians say that, as a country, the worst of the coronavirus outbreak is behind us as a country, down from last May’s peak. Also, the share of Californians saying that things in the US are going in the right direction is down from a year ago. Though fewer Californians now say that the state is in a recession, rising prices are a severe hardship for one in five Californians and one in three lower-income residents. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California.

[Note: Yesterday, PPIC president and CEO Mark Baldassare provided legislative testimony on Californians’ views on recall reforms. The survey findings on recall reforms are not under embargo.]

When asked where the country stands in the coronavirus outbreak, strong majorities of Californians (67% adults, 72% likely voters) say that the worst is behind us, though even more Californians responded that the worst was behind us last May (86% adults, 90% likely voters). Today, about four in ten Californians are either very (16%) or somewhat (26%) concerned that they will get COVID and need hospitalization, up from last May (10% very concerned, 18% somewhat concerned).

An overwhelming majority of residents (82%) say they have already gotten the COVID vaccine, and of these, 61 percent have received a booster or additional dose. However, there are variations across racial/ethnic groups in getting the vaccine (90% Asian Americans, 82% Latinos, 80% whites, and 79% African Americans) and booster (76% Asian Americans, 71% whites, 47% African Americans, 45% Latinos, among those already vaccinated.)

“With two in three saying the worst is behind us, and four in ten concerned about getting the coronavirus and requiring hospitalization, worries about COVID have increased during the omicron surge,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “Disparities continue in who gets the vaccine.”

The new statewide survey also finds:

  • COVID, homelessness, and jobs, the economy, and inflation are Californians’ top issues. COVID-19 is most frequently named as the top issue for Governor Newsom and the legislature to work on this year (19% adults, 15% likely voters). Homelessness (13% adults, 15% likely voters) and jobs, the economy, and inflation (12% adults, 11% likely voters) are the next most frequently named issues.

    “COVID-19, homelessness, and jobs, the economy, and inflation top the list when Californians are asked to name the most important issues for the governor and legislature to work on in 2022,” Baldassare said.

  • Most believe the governor and legislature will accomplish a lot in 2022, and majorities support Governor Newsom’s budget plan. Majorities of Californians (58% adults, 54% likely voters) think the governor and the state legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot this year. Solid majorities (63% adults, 60% likely voters) favor the governor’s proposed state budget for the coming fiscal year, and strong majorities (73% adults, 69% likely voters) favor the COVID-19 Emergency Response Package that is part of this budget plan.

    “A majority believes that the governor and legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot this year,” Baldassare said. “Most Californians support the governor’s budget plan and COVID spending package.”

  • Most approve of Newsom’s and Biden’s handling of COVID. Majorities of Californians (59% adults, 60% likely voters) approve of how Newsom is handling COVID, similar to levels since September 2020. Democrats (80%) are far more likely than independents (49%) and Republicans (17%) to approve. Majorities (59% adults, 56% likely voters) approve of how President Biden is handling the pandemic, with views similarly breaking along party lines (80% Democrats, 49% independents, 13% Republicans).

    “Majorities of Californians continue to approve of the way that Governor Newsom and President Biden are handling COVID-19, although partisans are deeply divided in their assessments,” Baldassare said.

  • Overall approval of Biden declines, as the national outlook darkens. Around half of Californians (53% adults, 49% likely voters) approve of how Biden is handling his job as president, down sharply from January 2021 (70% adults, 65% likely voters). The shares of Californians saying the US is going in the right direction (38% adults, 30% likely voters) are also down from January 2021 (52% adults, 46% likely voters), and similar shares expect good times financially in the US (38% adults, 34% likely voters). Governor Newsom has the approval of most Californians (56% adults, 57% likely voters). Half or fewer (50% adults, 46% likely voters) say that things in the state are going in the right direction.

    “Californians approve of President Biden at levels that are lower than a year ago but similar to Governor Newsom’s approval rating today,” Baldassare said. “Fewer than four in ten think the nation is headed in the right direction, while more are optimistic about the state’s outlook.”

  • Concerns about a recession recede, while inflation weighs on Californians. About half of Californians (53%) say that the state is in a recession, down sharply from January 2021 (72%). However, rising consumer prices are a concern for many. A solid majority (61%) say that price increases have caused financial hardship, including 20 percent who say increases have caused severe hardship. Among Californians with an annual household income of less than $40,000, 77 percent say rising prices pose a financial hardship, with 33 percent saying severe hardship.

    “Half of Californians say that the state is in a recession, which is a sharp decline from a year ago,” Baldassare said. “About one in five Californians, and one in three lower-income residents, say they have experienced severe hardship because of rising prices.”

  • Most say violence and street crime are a problem. About two in three Californians say violence and street crime are either a big problem (34% adults, 32% likely voters) or somewhat of a problem (31% adults, 32% likely voters) in their local community today.

About the Survey

The Californians and Their Government survey is supported with funding from the Arjay and Frances F. Miller Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation.

The findings presented above are based on responses from 1,640 California adult residents. The sampling error is ±3.5 percent for the total unweighted sample and ±4.6 percent for the 1,048 likely voters. Interviewing took place from January 16–25, 2022. For more information, please see the methodology section in the full survey report.

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.

The Public Policy Institute of California is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We are a public charity. We do not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor do we endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funders or of the staff, officers, advisory councils, or board of directors of the Public Policy Institute of California.