Latest Hoover Golden State Poll: In Their Governor Californians Trust?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Golden State Poll

Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown delivered a second-term inaugural address/State of the State message that revealed his intentions both for the calendar year and his remaining time as the Golden State’s chief executive (video here).

As with any major address, this raises two questions:

  1. Do the governor’s stated priorities adequately reflect those of his constituents?
  2. Do Californians consider Gov. Brown to be an honest and trustworthy messenger?

They’re important questions to consider, as the New Year brings with it some contentious matters in Sacramento.

To wit:

  • How will Gov. Brown resolve his differences with University of California President Janet Napolitano over university funding and possible tuition hikes?
  • Though the governor has expressed an interest in public pension reform (Brown’s called for taking on California’s state retiree health debt), will the dominant public employee union allies in the State Legislature go along?
  • Brown has described California’s proposed 2015-16 state budget as “precariously balanced,” but do his fellow Democratic lawmakers eager to increase social spending also see it that way?
  • And what of the governor’s big-ticket “green” items – increasingly California’s renewable energy from one-third to 50%, reducing state motorists’ petroleum use by 50% and doubling building energy efficiency all by 2030?

In this, the first installment of the Hoover Institution’s Golden State Poll for 2015, we took a look at the twin issues of Californians’ priorities and their trust in state government. And, as has been this poll’s tradition, we asked Californians for an update on the health of their personal finances.

Some highlights:

  • Asked to list their “top priorities” for California state government in 2015, likely voters preferred strengthening the state’s economy (72%), dealing with the state’s water problems (69%), and improving the job situation (66%).  Except for dealing with the water problems, California’s top priorities have changed little from last year.  With the continued coverage of the state’s drought and the passage of Proposition 1, water policy has jumped from the 11th ranked issue in the January 2014 Golden State Poll to the 2nd.
  • The least popular priorities: dealing with global warming (26%), strengthening gun laws (26%) and continuing California’s high-speed rail project (16%) – all were among the lowest top priorities issues of 2014 also.
  • A slim majority of Californians (54%) believes Gov. Brown has been truthful about the state budget.
  • Only 33% of respondents see California as a model for other state government to emulate vs. 50% who disagree with the notion.
  • More Californians trust local government (41%) than they do state government (34%). Democrats heavily side with the state; Republicans are more pro-local.
  • More respondents had faith in the governor and California’s executive branch (35%) than the State Legislature (25%). Interesting, more Republicans than Democrats (36% to 19%) sided with the heavily Democratic State Legislature.
  • A slim majority of Californians (51%) is comfortable with the concept of one-party control of government – though they split almost evenly on whether that party should enjoy a legislative supermajority advantage.
  • Only 31% of survey respondents said they’ve felt the affect of state laws passed in the last year.

As has been the practice of the Golden State Poll in each of last year’s surveys, we also inquired as to Californians’ financial well being.

Our findings:

  • Only 20% of respondents reported being better off financially than they were six months ago, compared to 75% who were the same or worse off. Nearly the same (26%) expected to be better off in the next six months.
  • Californians are nearly evenly split (49% confident to 45% not confident) on their confidence in being able to make a lateral job move in the next six months
  • Half of the survey’s respondents (51%) consider themselves to be in the same financial boat as their neighbors.

Hoover research fellow Lanhee Chen provides a more detailed explanation of the survey’s findings in Defining Ideas California's "Comeback", the Hoover Institution’s online journal. Click here to view the survey itself.

Finally, Chen and Hoover research fellows Carson Bruno and Bill Whalen will discuss this survey and its implications for Gov. Brown’s agenda at a roundtable conversation Wednesday night sponsored by the Commonwealth Club of California. We’ll post a podcast and video of that conversation following the event.