Hoover Institution Golden State Poll Finds Economy, Jobs, Budget Top Californians’ Concerns

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Hoover Golden State Poll.

As California Governor Jerry Brown laid out his priorities in this morning’s State of the State Address, the Hoover Institution’s Golden State Poll finds strengthening the state’s economy, improving the job market, and balancing the state’s budget foremost among Californians’ concerns in the new year.

From December 6 to 16, 2013, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University surveyed one thousand Californians about their views of their personal financial well-being, the performance of California’s state government and elected leaders, and the priorities the state’s policymakers should address in 2014. Administered by the survey research firm YouGov, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.23 percent for the full sample.

“Among the survey’s more interesting findings is that balancing the state’s budget finished as high as third, even ahead of improving K-12 education,” remarked Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an investigator on the Hoover Golden State poll. “This perhaps explains why Governor Brown continues to urge spending restraint and is now pushing for a rainy-day fund.”

Lanhee Chen, another Hoover research fellow and an investigator on the Hoover Golden State Poll, commented, “It’s striking that a majority, by a four-to-one margin, of self-reported political Independents don’t think California’s government offers a good model for other states to follow.”

Full survey results available here.

Among the survey’s findings:

Economic growth (71%), job creation (70%), and balancing the state budget (64%) topped California’s list of the most important issues for state government; Californians placed the lowest priority on dealing with global warming (23% list as “top priority”), strengthening gun laws (22%), and continuing the state’s high-speed rail project (10%).

When asked what they guessed their family’s finances would be in six months, Californians’ expectations had not improved in December 2013 compared to such sentiments three months earlier, in August/September 2013. Only one in five (21%) of Californians surveyed expected their family’s finances to be better off in six months, the same percentage as in August/September 2013. Fifty-one percent said they expected their family finances would be about the same, compared to 54 percent in autumn 2013. The same percentage (19%) in both the August/September and December survey said they expected to be worse off in six months.

Among our respondents who are currently employed (full, self-, or part-time), some Californians think the job market in California might have improved since last fall, but the change is modest in size and not statistically significant. When asked, "If you left your current job, how confident are you that you could find a new job in California in the next six months that pays as much as you are making now?” fewer than one-half (45%) of the currently employed respondents (n = 483) to the December 2013 survey said they were very or somewhat confident in their job mobility within the state at the same rate of pay, up five percent from the August/September 2013 survey, which found forty percent of Californians were very or somewhat confident in their job mobility within the Golden State. Notably, that improvement comes from respondents who indicated that they were "somewhat confident" (+7%); those responding that they were "very confident" declined by two percentage points.

When asked whether things in California overall are better or worse than one year ago, Californians were more likely to see the state as worse off (39%) than better off (28%). Self-identified Independents split almost two to one toward worse off (46% instead of better off (20%). Not surprisingly, Democrats are more than twice as likely to see the state moving in the right (48%), rather than wrong (22%), direction;  Republicans are four times as likely to see California headed in the wrong (58%), rather than right (13%), direction.

Looking ahead to the gubernatorial election, our survey findings suggest that only one-quarter of Californians see reelecting Governor Brown as their first choice. When asked if they would like to see Governor Brown reelected or a generic challenger of an unspecified partisan affiliation elected governor, twenty-six percent supported Brown’s reelection, forty-four percent preferred “someone else,” and thirty percent were not sure. Among self-reported Independents, the figures are Brown, sixteen percent; fifty-three percent “someone else”; and thirty-two percent not sure. Democrats went forty-nine percent for Brown’s reelection, twenty percent for “someone else,” and thirty-one percent not yet sure.

The Hoover Institution Golden State Poll is conducted quarterly by researchers at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, in partnership with the survey research firm YouGov. The December 2013 Hoover investigators are Jeremy Carl; Lanhee Chen, PhD; Tammy Frisby, PhD; Bill Whalen; and Carson Bruno. Survey respondents are matched on a set of individual characteristics; the sample is statistically weighted based on estimates from the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey, and the Pew Religious Landscape Survey.