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Press Release · February 6, 2019

Most Californians Favor Governor’s First Budget


SAN FRANCISCO, February 6, 2019—Majorities of Californians support Governor Newsom’s first proposed budget, which increases spending on K–14 education, higher education, and health and human services. This is among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

When read a summary of the governor’s 2019–20 proposed budget, 70 percent of all California adults and 64 percent of likely voters favor the spending plan. Large majorities support two key components of the governor’s proposal: 77 percent of adults and 72 percent of likely voters favor allocating $1.8 billion to expand pre-kindergarten and early childhood programs and facilities, while 78 percent of adults and 70 percent of likely voters support an $832 million funding increase for public colleges and universities.

“Governor Newsom’s first budget proposal is highly popular among Californians, and there is overwhelming support for his plans to increase funding for preschool and higher education,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

The survey also asks which of the four major areas of state spending should have the highest priority: K–12 public education, health and human services, higher education, or prisons and corrections. Californians are most likely to choose K–12 education (46%), followed by health and human services (32%), higher education (16%), and prisons and corrections (4%).

Immigration Seen as Top Issue for State Leaders to Address

Asked what the most important issue is for the governor and legislature to address in the coming year, more Californians name immigration and illegal immigration (15% adults, 18% likely voters) than any other issue. Additional issues mentioned by more than 5 percent of Californians are education (11% adults, 11% likely voters), jobs and the economy (10% adults, 8% likely voters), the environment (8% adults, 8% likely voters), and homelessness (6% adults, 7% likely voters).

Just 27 percent of Californians say the situation with illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border is a crisis, while 45 percent say it is a serious problem but not a crisis. A similar share of adults nationwide (24%) called the situation a crisis in a January ABC/Washington Post poll.

A strong majority of Californians (69%) oppose building a wall along the entire border with Mexico, while 28 percent favor doing so. Nationwide, a January CNN poll found that a majority of adults (56%) opposed building a wall and 39 percent were in favor.

The survey also asks Californians their views on the state of racial divisions in the US more generally: 45 percent say race relations are worse than they were a year ago, while only 20 percent say they are better and 34 percent say they are about the same. Two-thirds of African Americans (66%) in California say race relations are getting worse, as do 45 percent of both Latinos and whites and 38 percent of Asian Americans.

“Building a wall along the US-Mexico border continues to be an unpopular idea, while many Californians say that the state of race relations in America has gotten worse in the last year,” Baldassare said.

Most Blame President, Republicans in Congress for Shutdown

Most Californians believe President Trump and Republicans in Congress were primarily responsible for the recent partial shutdown of the federal government. A strong majority (64%) say the president and Republicans in Congress were responsible, compared with just 24 percent saying Democrats in Congress were responsible. Nationwide, 53 percent of adults blamed Trump and Republicans, while 29 percent blamed De­mocrats, according to a January ABC/Washington Post poll.

Majority Are Optimistic Governor, Legislature Can Work Together

Two-thirds of Californians (67% adults, 65% likely voters) are optimistic that the new governor and the legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year. Majorities of Democrats (79%) and independents (59%) believe Governor Newsom and the legislature will be able to work together, as do 44 percent of Republicans.

“In the wake of the election, there are sky-high expectations that Governor Newsom and the Democratic-controlled legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in 2019,” Baldassare said.

With Newsom in office for less than a month, 44 percent of adults and 43 percent of likely voters approve of the way he is handling his job, while 33 percent of adults and 29 percent of likely voters say they don’t know or have not heard enough to have an opinion yet. This is similar to Governor Brown’s approval rating when he took office in January 2011 (41% adults, 47% likely voters).

As the 2019–20 legislative session gets underway, about half of adults (49%) and 46 percent of likely voters approve of the way the California Legislature is handling its job. This is similar to the legislature’s approval rating from last January (51% adults, 50% likely voters).

When asked who should make the tough choices involved in the state budget this year, overwhelming majorities of Californians (77% adults, 78% likely voters) want voters to make some of the decisions. This is consistent with the large share of Californians—always at least three in four—expressing this view on PPIC surveys since 2011.

Mixed Views on “Split Roll” Change to Proposition 13

Proposition 13, which limits property taxes in California, is viewed favorably, with 61 percent of adults and 64 percent of likely voters saying it has been mostly a good thing for the state. A ballot measure eligible for the 2020 ballot would ease the strict limits that Proposition 13 places on commercial property taxes without changing its provisions for residential properties. Californians are divided on having commercial properties taxed according to their current market value. Slightly less than half (47%) favor this change, 43 percent oppose, and 10 percent don’t know. Likely voters hold similar views: 49 percent favor the change, 43 percent oppose, and 8 percent don’t know. A majority of Democrats approve (58%), while 49 percent of independents and 37 percent of Republicans do.

“Majorities of Californians continue to say that Proposition 13 has been a good thing for California, while the split roll property tax reform draws mixed reviews across party lines,” Baldassare said.

The survey also asks about Californians’ understanding of state finances. Asked to name the largest source of state revenue, a third (33% adults, 34% likely voters) correctly say personal income taxes.

Optimism about Direction of State, Pessimism about Nation

A majority of Californians are optimistic about where the state is headed, with 55 percent of adults and 51 percent of likely voters saying things are going in the right direction. However, views vary across racial/ethnic groups and party affiliations. Majorities of Asian Americans (71%), Latinos (62%), and African Americans (57%), but less than half of whites (47%), believe California is going in the right direction. More than three-fourths of Democrats (79%) hold this view, while far fewer independents (41%) and Republicans (18%) do.

In contrast with overall optimism about where the state is headed, Californians are pessimistic about the direction of the country. Slightly less than a third of adults (30%) and likely voters (29%) say things are going in the right direction nationally. There is dramatic variation across racial/ethnic groups. Only 6 percent of African Americans in California say things in the US are going in the right direction, far less than among whites (30%), Latinos (32%), and Asian Americans (37%). A majority of Republicans (57%), but far fewer independents (30%) and Democrats (15%), say the country is headed in the right direction.

Record-Low Expectations of Trump, Congress Working Together

As President Trump starts his third year in office, only 30 percent of California adults and 36 percent of likely voters approve of how he is handling his job. Just 34 percent of adults and 23 percent of likely voters approve of Congress.

With Democrats now controlling the House of Representatives, a record-low 25 percent of California adults, and even fewer likely voters (18%), say President Trump and Congress will be able to work together and accomplish a lot this year. Still, when asked about political divisions among Americans more generally, a majority of Californians (58%) are optimistic that people of different political views can work out their differences.

Just under half of adults (48%) and 50 percent of likely voters approve of how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is handling her job. This is higher than House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s job approval rating (32% adults, 28% likely voters). However, 38 percent of adults and 36 percent of likely voters say they don’t know or have not heard enough about McCarthy to have an opinion yet.

“As further evidence of the political fallout from the federal government shutdown, expectations for the president and Congress working together have never been lower,” Baldassare said. “Californians are much more likely to approve of Speaker Pelosi than President Trump or Minority Leader McCarthy.”

Most Expect Some Changes from New Democratic Majority in House

While Californians are generally pessimistic about where the country is headed, many expect that Democratic control of the US House of Representatives will bring some change to how things are going. Two-thirds of adults (66%) think that the Democrats gaining a House majority in the midterm elections will lead to either a lot of change (28%) or some change (38%) in the way things are going in the country. Majorities across parties expect some change, but Democrats (81%) are far more likely than independents (59%) and Republicans (58%) to expect change.

About the Survey

The Californians and Their Government series is supported with funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle.

Findings in this report are based on a survey of 1,707 California adult residents, including 1,195 interviewed on cell phones and 512 interviewed on landline telephones. Interviews took place from January 20–29, 2019. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.3 percent for all adults, ±3.5 percent for the 1,440 registered voters, and ±4.0 percent for the 1,154 likely voters. For more information on methodology, see page 21.

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.