SAN FRANCISCO, July 12, 2023—An overwhelming majority of Californians say that extreme weather events are a problem in their part of the state, including about one in three who say they are a big problem. A majority of Californians think the use of electric vehicles (EVs) helps address climate change; half of the state’s residents have seriously considered getting one, and nearly one in ten have already done so. These are among the key findings from a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Drawing on this new survey, PPIC is publishing a blog post by Statewide Survey Director and Miller Chair in Public Policy Mark Baldassare: “Californians Like Voting on Environmental Issues.”
Seventy-six percent of California adults and 74 percent of likely voters say extreme weather events are a problem in their part of the state. This includes 35 percent of adults and 36 percent of likely voters who say that extreme weather events are a big problem. Across regions, 81 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area, 79 percent in Los Angeles, 78 percent in the Inland Empire, 77 percent in the Central Valley, and 68 percent in Orange/San Diego say extreme weather events are a problem (big problem: 39% San Francisco Bay Area, 39% Los Angeles, 36% Central Valley, 32% Inland Empire, 29% Orange/San Diego).
More than four in ten adults (45%) say they have been personally affected in the past two years by an extreme weather event where they live. Residents of the Inland Empire (53%), Central Valley (51%), and San Francisco Bay Area (51%) are more likely than those in Los Angeles (38%) and Orange/San Diego (30%) to say this.
“An overwhelming majority of Californians say extreme weather events are a problem in their part of the state, and 45 percent have personally been affected by them,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC Statewide Survey director and Miller Chair in Public Policy.
The new statewide survey also finds:
- Half of Californians have seriously considered getting an electric vehicle—and nearly one in ten already have done so. Asked how much the use of electric vehicles (EVs) helps address climate change, 58 percent of Californians say either a great deal (21%) or a fair amount (37%). Half of Californians (50%) say they have seriously considered getting an EV; the shares saying this are higher in the Inland Empire (58%), the San Francisco Bay Area (55%), Orange/San Diego (52%), and Los Angeles (50%) than in the Central Valley (38%). Eight percent say they already have an EV, including 11 percent in Los Angeles, 10 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7 percent in Orange/San Diego, 6 percent in the Central Valley, and 5 percent in the Inland Empire.
“Nearly six in ten think that electric vehicle use helps address climate change, while 50 percent have seriously considered getting an electric vehicle, and 8 percent already have one,” Baldassare said.
- Most Californians think it is very important that the state take steps now to respond to climate change, though views vary across party lines. Fifty-seven percent of adults and likely voters say it is very important for the state government to pass regulations and spend money now on efforts to reduce climate change. Democrats (73%) and independents (55%) are far more likely than Republicans (22%) to hold this view.
Solid majorities (62% adults, 62% likely voters) say it is very important that the state enact regulations and spend money now to prepare for the future effects of climate change, such as flooding, storms, and wildfires. Here, too, views break along party lines, with 77 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents, and 32 percent of Republicans saying this.
“Solid majorities say it is very important for the state government to pass regulations and spend money now on preparing for and reducing climate change, while partisans are divided,” Baldassare said.
- A strong majority of Californians favor the state’s shift to renewable energy, though less than half are willing to pay more for electricity from renewable sources. Sixty-eight percent of adults and 64 percent of likely voters approve of the existing state law that requires all the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2045. This includes strong majorities of Democrats (84%) and independents (67%) and one in three Republicans (32%).
Fewer than half of adults (43%) and likely voters (43%) would be willing to pay more for electricity if it were generated by renewable sources like solar or wind energy. This willingness is much higher among Democrats (55%) than among independents (39%) or Republicans (21%).
“Sixty-eight percent favor the state law that requires 100 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2045, while 43 percent are willing to pay more for electricity if it comes from renewable sources,” Baldassare said.
- Majorities say stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost; more than half expect higher gas prices as a result of efforts to address climate change. Sixty-one percent of adults and 59 percent of likely voters say that stricter environmental laws and regulations in California are worth the cost, while four in ten (39% adults, 40% likely voters) think stricter laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy. Majorities of Democrats (79%) and independents (62%) and less than one in four Republicans (23%) believe it is worth the cost.
Asked about how California’s efforts to address climate change might affect gas prices around the state, majorities of adults (57%) and likely voters (62%) say they expect prices to increase. This includes more than half of adults across regions (62% Orange/San Diego, 61% Central Valley, 61% Inland Empire, 55% San Francisco Bay Area, 52% Los Angeles).
“Sixty-one percent say that stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost,” Baldassare said, “and 57 percent expect gasoline price increases as a result of doing things to reduce climate change.”
- Majorities approve of how Newsom and the state legislature are handling environmental issues. Fifty-eight percent of adults and 59 percent of likely voters approve of Governor Newsom’s handling of environmental issues. Fifty-four percent of adults and 55 percent of likely voters approve of how the state legislature is handling these issues.
Less than half of California adults (47%) and 51 percent of likely voters approve of how President Biden is handling environmental issues in the US, while far smaller shares (25% adults, 22% likely voters) approve of how Congress is handling environmental issues.
“When it comes to their handling of environmental issues, majorities approve of Governor Newsom and the state legislature, while half approve of President Biden and one in four approve of Congress,” Baldassare said.
About the Survey
The Californians and the Environment survey is supported with funding from the Arjay and Frances F. Miller Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Windy Hill Fund.
The findings are based on responses from 1,724 California adult residents. The sampling error is ±3.1 percent for the total unweighted sample and ±3.8 percent for the 1,092 likely voters. Interviewing took place from June 7–29, 2023. For more information, please see the methodology section in the full survey report.
Mark Baldassare is statewide survey director at 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.