Homelessness, Public Safety Top Concerns for State Voters

California voters are anxious.

Reports of steady growth and low unemployment cheer political leaders, but voters are disturbed by decaying public order and an unaffordable cost of living, according to a recently released California Chamber of Commerce poll, The People’s Voice, 2019.

Top of mind for voters is the erosion of public order.

Homelessness

Central to that perception is homelessness. Fully half of voters say they see homeless people on the street more than five times a week. Three out of four voters say homelessness has gotten worse in California, and their perception is not much better in their own communities, where 64% of voters say homelessness has gotten worse.

While voters generally prefer policy solutions created by officials closer to home, they are so frustrated with lack of action that Californians now put responsibility for solving the homelessness problem on state officials over local officials, by a 62% – 38% margin.

Regarding proposed solutions, voters indicate a mix of compassion and no-nonsense. Voters most strongly supported:

• Funding more mental health and homeless service centers specifically focused on serving homeless populations (91% support; 60% strong support).

• Involuntary commitment of homeless individuals who have severe mental/behavioral issues that may be a danger or harm to themselves or others in the community (89% support; 49% strong support).

• Build more homeless shelters (86% support; 50% strong support).

• Allow law enforcement to arrest homeless people who use dangerous and illegal drugs (82% support; 49% strong support).

Public Safety

Another take on public order is growing unease over public safety. Seventy-nine percent agree (41% strongly) that homelessness and criminal behavior have become rampant throughout California.

Seventy-three percent agree (37% strongly) that street crime, shoplifting and car theft have become rampant throughout California.

And 60% agree (25% strongly) with the statement, “I no longer feel safe because of the danger and disorder in society today.”

Economy

Voters are also anxious about the economy. Job creation has been strong over the past decade, and voters have recognized this. But while the perception of new job creation has been increasing since 2015, this year it flat-lined. About two-thirds of voters have a positive impression of job creation, the same as last year.

The major differences are regional. Voters in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego/Orange/Los Angeles counties perceive very strong job creation, while inland voters in the Central Valley and Inland Empire are more pessimistic.

Indeed, when it comes to the quality of jobs, a strong majority of Bay Area voters believe most new jobs “lead to higher pay and middle class,” while significant majorities in the Inland Empire and Central Valley disagree, believing new jobs “tend to be dead ends and do not lead to middle class.” A slight majority of voters statewide perceive new jobs as “middle class,” but that feeling is trending downward from 2018.

Affordability

The central anxiety for voters is affordability.

Nine out of 10 voters agree that “earning enough to enjoy a middle class lifestyle is becoming almost impossible in my part of California,” with 52%—an absolute majority—strongly agreeing with that statement.

Finally and most sobering, a record high 2 out of 3 voters with children living at home say their kids “will have a better future if they leave California.” This is a 5 percentage point jump from 2018. More than a third (36%) strongly agree with this statement—a 9 percentage point jump from 2018. This should be a flashing caution sign to policy makers to address affordability issues for rising generations of Californians.

The CalChamber poll was conducted from September 24 – 28, 2019, with 1,000 online interviews of likely 2020 general election voters. The margin of error for the study is +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.

Contact: Loren Kaye

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Loren Kaye
Loren Kaye was appointed president of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education in January 2006. He has devoted his career to developing, analyzing and implementing public policy issues in California, with a special emphasis on improving the state's business and economic climate. He also was a gubernatorial appointee to the state's Little Hoover Commission, charged with evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of state agencies and programs. Kaye served in senior policy positions for Governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian, including Cabinet Secretary to the Governor and Undersecretary of the California Trade and Commerce Agency.