The year began with the swearing in of state and federal elected officials after the midterms, followed by drama surrounding the election of a new House Speaker. Governor Newsom announced a state budget proposal with a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall. The economy continued to send mixed signals—with job growth and inflation—and now recession fears are heightened due to the looming debt ceiling stalemate. Californians faced storms of historic proportions, and federal assistance was provided for response and recovery efforts in communities throughout the state.
This is the 25th year of the PPIC Statewide Survey. These are the key findings of the Californians and Their Government survey on state and national issues conducted from January 13 to 20, 2023:
- Californians list jobs and the economy and homelessness as the top issues for the governor and legislature to work on in 2023. Californians are evenly divided when asked if the state is going in the right or wrong direction. Solid majorities believe that Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year. Democrats have far more positive views than other voters. →
- Most Californians (66%) are expecting bad times for the state economy in the next year. Solid majorities (62%) say the state is now in a recession, with most viewing it as a moderate recession. Three in ten adults are concerned about job loss for themselves or a family member in the coming year. Solid majorities (61%) also say that rising prices are causing financial hardship, with half of lower-income residents saying that rising prices are causing serious financial hardship. About one in three lower-income residents are very concerned about having enough money to pay for housing. →
- Seven in ten Californians view homelessness as a big problem in their part of the state. Overwhelming majorities say the presence of homeless people has increased in their local community in the past year. Seven in ten Californians say that housing affordability is a big problem in their part of the state, and one in three say that their housing costs make them seriously consider moving out of the state. Majorities across regional and demographic groups are very concerned that housing costs will prevent the younger generation in their family from buying a home in their part of California. →
- One in three Californians say the state’s budget situation is a big problem. Solid majorities favor the governor’s budget plan for the next fiscal year—although partisans differ. Most say that K–12 public education and health and human services are their top two spending priorities. A slim majority would rather pay lower taxes and have a state government that provides fewer services. →
- Perceptions about the nation are gloomier than views about the state. Two in three say that the US is headed in the wrong direction, and about three in four expect bad economic times in the US in the next 12 months. Seven in ten think that President Biden and Congress will not be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year—including strong majorities across partisan groups. Forty-four percent have at least a good amount of confidence in President Biden making the right decisions for the country’s future. About six in ten say that Republican control of the House will change, at least to some degree, the way things are going in the country. →
- Majorities of adults and likely voters approve of Governor Newsom’s performance in office and President Biden’s performance in office. Approval ratings for the governor and president on their handling of jobs and the economy are similar to their overall ratings. The approval ratings of the governor and president are much higher among Democrats than other voters. Almost half approve of the state legislature, while 37 percent approve of the US Supreme Court and 27 percent approve of the US Congress. Twenty-eight percent have a favorable opinion of Speaker Kevin McCarthy. →
Top Issues and State of the State
When asked about the most important issue for the governor and state legislature to work on, Californians are most likely to name jobs, the economy, and inflation (23%) or homelessness (20%). Fewer Californians mention the environment (6%) or housing costs and availability (6%). About one in five Democrats, Republicans, and independents mention jobs, the economy, and inflation; across partisan groups, Democrats are the most likely to mention homelessness.
Californians are divided on whether the state is generally going in the right direction or the wrong direction. The outlook for the state varies by party, with overwhelming shares of Democrats (73%) being optimistic and overwhelming shares of Republicans (89%)—and majorities of independents (56%)—being pessimistic. Across regions, about six in ten residents in Los Angeles (60%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (57%) think things are headed in the right direction, while about six in ten in the Central Valley (57%) and Inland Empire (60%) think things are going in the wrong direction; Orange/San Diego residents are more divided (47% right direction, 52% wrong direction). Asian Americans (58%) and Latinos (55%) are more likely than African Americans (47%) and whites (42%) to think things in California are going in the right direction.
Continuing the trend seen throughout 2022, half or fewer Californians say the state is going in the right direction
PPIC Statewide Surveys, 1998–2023.
When asked whether they feel Governor Newsom and the legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot over the next year, six in ten Californians are optimistic and fewer than four in ten are pessimistic. About six in ten Californians have been optimistic in recent years while two in three were optimistic shortly after the governor’s inauguration in January 2019 (67%). Partisan differences are wide, with eight in ten Democrats, as well as about six in ten independents, thinking Newsom and the legislature can work together, while seven in ten Republicans think they cannot. Majorities across regions and demographic groups are optimistic, although optimism is higher among African Americans (71%) and Latinos (68%) than among whites (57%) and Asian Americans (54%).
A solid majority think Newsom and the legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year
PPIC Statewide Survey, February 2023. Survey was fielded from January 13–20, 2023 (n=1,539 adults, n=1,050 likely voters).
Californians most often name jobs, the economy, and inflation as well as homelessness as the top issues facing the state
PPIC Statewide Survey, February 2023. Survey was fielded from January 13–20, 2023 (n=1,539 adults, n=1,050 likely voters).
California’s Economic Conditions
With inflation cooling but uncertainty still looming, two in three Californians think the state will have bad times financially during the next 12 months. Negative perceptions today are higher than at any time in 2021 or 2022 and similar to December 2020 (68%). Pessimism is widespread, with majorities across parties, regions, and demographic groups expecting bad times—except among Democrats, who are divided (50% good times, 47% bad times). Along with the general economic pessimism expressed by a strong majority of adult residents, 30 percent of Californians are concerned that they or someone in their family will lose their job in the next year, while 45 percent are concerned about having enough money to pay their rent or mortgage. Lower-income residents are more concerned than others about possible job loss and having enough money to pay for their housing.
After receding in 2021, economic pessimism has returned
PPIC Statewide Surveys, 1999–2023.
Amid pessimism about the state’s economic outlook, a solid majority of Californians think the state is in an economic recession—with most saying that it is in a moderate recession. Fewer than four in ten think the state is not in a recession. A year ago, fewer Californians thought the state was in a recession (23% serious recession, 20% moderate recession, 8% mild recession). Across parties, Republicans (81%) are much more likely than independents (63%) or Democrats (51%) to think California is in a recession and about twice as likely to think it is in a serious one. Majorities across regions and demographic groups think that the state is in a recession.
Many across the state think California is in a recession
PPIC Statewide Survey, February 2023. Survey was fielded from January 13–20, 2023 (n=1,539 adults, n=1,050 likely voters).
While inflation has begun to ease, six in ten Californians say that recent price increases have caused financial hardship in their household, including three in ten who say increases have caused serious financial hardship. The share saying they are facing hardship was higher last September (38% serious hardship; 33% hardship, but not serious). While majorities across parties, demographic groups, and most regions have experienced hardship, the impact varies across income groups. Across regions, hardship is felt most among residents in the Inland Empire and least among those in the San Francisco Bay Area. Latinos and African Americans are much more likely than Asian Americans and whites to say their household has experienced serious hardship, and this perception declines sharply with rising income and educational attainment. When asked about the hardship caused by gasoline and other transportation costs, 54 percent say transportation costs have caused hardship—similar to the share who said this in our November 2022 survey (53%).
Recent price increases have caused financial hardship for most Californians
Homelessness and Housing Affordability
Homelessness is one of the top two issues that Californians would like state leaders to work on this year. Seventy percent of adults and 76 percent of likely voters say homelessness is a big problem in their part of the state. Similar shares of adults (68%) and slightly fewer likely voters (70%) held this view last September. Today, solid majorities across all partisan, demographic, and regional groups say it is a big problem. Shares with this opinion are highest among African Americans (83%) and Republicans (79%).
Overwhelming majorities of adults and likely voters say the presence of homeless people in their community has increased in the last year; about one in four say it has stayed the same, and very few say it has decreased. The share noting an increase has risen since the first time PPIC asked this question in November 2019 (58%). Today, strong majorities across all partisan, age, gender, education, income, racial/ethnic, and homeownership groups—as well as regions—say the presence of homeless people has increased.
An overwhelming majority of Californians say the presence of homeless people in their community has increased over the last year
Housing affordability is one of several issues inextricably linked to homelessness, and Californians are equally likely to think both issues are a big problem in their region. Seventy percent of adults and 74 percent of likely voters say housing affordability is a big problem in their part of California. A similar share of adults (64%) and likely voters (72%) held this opinion in March 2022 when we last asked this question. Majorities across regions and solid majorities across all partisan and demographic groups say housing affordability is a big problem. African Americans (86%) and San Francisco Bay Area residents (80%) are the most likely to say this. With an overwhelming majority of Californians saying housing affordability is a big problem, 45 percent say the cost of their housing makes them and their family seriously consider moving out of the part of California where they currently live, with most (34%) saying they would move outside the state. Last March, similar shares (46%) said they were considering a move because of the cost of their housing.
Nearly nine in ten adults and likely voters are at least somewhat concerned that the cost of housing will prevent their family’s younger generations from buying a home in their part of California, with solid majorities being very concerned about this (60% adults, 64% likely voters). Across regions, the share of residents who are very concerned is highest in the Inland Empire (67%) and lowest in the Central Valley (52%, 61% Los Angeles, 62% San Francisco Bay Area, 63% Orange/San Diego). Majorities across all partisan and demographic groups are very concerned about younger family members being able to afford a home.
A solid majority are very concerned that housing costs will prevent their family's younger generations from buying a home in California
Californians are equally likely to say homelessness and housing affordability are big problems
In early January, Governor Newsom released a $297 billion spending plan and announced an estimated $22.5 billion state budget shortfall. This shortfall represents a sharp decline in California’s fiscal situation since last January, when there was an estimated $97.5 billion budget surplus. Despite the shortfall, only 34 percent of adults and 38 percent of likely voters say the state budget situation is a big problem (somewhat of a problem: 51% adults, 47% likely voters; not a problem: 13% adults, 14% likely voters). Similar shares held this view last February (39% adults, 40% likely voters). Today, 23 percent of Democrats say the budget situation is a big problem, compared to a strong majority of Republicans (67%) and 31 percent of independents. Across regions, Californians in the Inland Empire (45%) are the most likely to say the budget is a big problem. Four in ten or fewer across age, education, gender, homeownership, income, and racial/ethnic groups hold this view.
After reading a short summary of Governor Newsom’s budget proposal, a solid majority of adults (60%) and likely voters (62%) are in favor. In addition to the $297 billion in planned spending, the proposal contains $3.9 billion in “trigger reductions,” or cuts from the budget that would be restored in the future if economic conditions improve. Despite the projected shortfall, the plan currently includes no new general taxes. Most Democrats and independents are in favor, compared to just one in four Republicans. Support for the budget plan is higher in Los Angeles (69%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (66%) than in Orange/San Diego (55%), the Central Valley (52%), and the Inland Empire (51%). Majorities across demographic groups favor the proposal.
A solid majority of Californians favor Governor Newsom's proposed budget plan
The governor’s plan refrains from accessing the $22.4 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to partially address the current budget shortfall. An overwhelming majority of adults (70%) and likely voters (73%) say this is a good idea (bad idea: 26% adults, 24% likely voters). There is agreement across partisan groups, but Democrats and independents are much more likely than Republicans to say it is a good idea. Strong majorities across regions and all demographic groups hold this view, but African Americans are less likely than members of other racial/ethnic groups—and college graduates are more likely than adults with less formal education—to agree.
The governor’s budget proposal continues to maintain promised investments that, among other things, expand transitional kindergarten, sustain universal school meals, support the state’s homelessness strategy, and expand health care—including expanding Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians, regardless of immigration status. Solid majorities say this part of the state spending proposal is a good idea (66% adults, 63% likely voters). Partisans, however, are sharply divided: overwhelming shares of Democrats and solid majorities of independents say it is a good idea, while 74% of Republicans think it is a bad idea. Majorities across the state’s major regions and all demographic groups think sustaining funding for these programs is a good idea.
To partially address the budget shortfall, Governor Newsom’s plan includes a combination of cuts, delayed spending, and shifts in funding sources to bridge the gap between spending and revenues. Currently, the proposal calls for spending cuts to areas such as workforce training, transportation, housing programs, and efforts to fight climate change. Californians are divided in their views on these cuts: about half of adults (48%) and likely voters (49%) say the cuts are a good idea while another 50 percent think they are a bad idea. Among partisans, Democrats and Republicans are similarly divided in their opinions while 55% of independents say the cuts are a bad idea. Regionally, about half in the Inland Empire, Los Angeles, and Orange/San Diego think they are a good idea compared to fewer elsewhere. Half of Californians age 35 and older say the cuts are a good idea compared to 42% of younger adults. Men and women also feel differently, with 53% of men saying the cuts are a good idea compared to 43% of women. Among racial/ethnic groups, roughly half of Asian Americans and Latinos believe the cuts are a good idea, while slim majorities of African Americans and whites say they are a bad idea.
What are the fiscal priorities for Californians when it comes to state government spending? Most mentioned K–12 public education (43% adults, 49% likely voters) and health and human services (42% adults, 40% likely voters) when asked to name their top spending priority. And when the choice was between taxes and services, more Californians said that they would rather pay lower taxes and have a state government that provides fewer services (52% adults, 54% likely voters) than said they would rather pay higher taxes and have a state government that provides more services (45% adults, 45% likely voters). Partisans differ sharply in their preferences for taxes and services.
Most Californians think it's a good idea to not use the Rainy Day Fund to help address the shortfall, and to sustain funding for priority programs, but are divided over budget cuts
% saying "good idea"
State of the Nation
After a tumultuous year that included the end of most coronavirus-related restrictions, news of Russia invading Ukraine, rising prices, and the midterm election results, about two in three adults (67%) and likely voters (69%) think things in the US are headed in the wrong direction. Three in ten adults and likely voters say they are headed in the right direction. The share of all adults saying things are headed in the wrong direction has increased from a year ago (56%), but the share among likely voters remains similar (66%). Majorities across partisan groups say things are going in the wrong direction, but Republicans (88%) and independents (75%) are much more likely to say this than are Democrats (58%). Six in ten or more across major demographic and regional groups say this, with shares highest among 18-to-34-year-olds (76%), Central Valley and Inland Empire residents (74% each), whites (74%), adults with some college education (74%), women (71%), and those with incomes of $80,000 or more (70%).
Two-thirds of Californians think things in the US are headed in the wrong direction
PPIC Statewide Surveys, 2003–2023.
When asked how much confidence they have in President Biden to make the right decisions for the country’s future, fewer than half say they have a great deal (12%) or a good amount of confidence (32%), while a majority say they have just some (28%) or no (27%) confidence at all. Confidence was higher in January 2021, at the start of Biden’s term, when a majority had at least a good amount of confidence (28% great deal, 30% good amount). Today, Democrats (25%) are the most likely to express a great deal of confidence, while Republicans are far more likely to say they have no confidence at all (74%). African Americans are the most likely among racial/ethnic groups to have a great deal of confidence, followed by somewhat fewer Latinos, whites, and Asian Americans. The share saying they have a great deal of confidence in Biden increases with rising age. Ten percent or more across regional groups say this.
Meanwhile, solid majorities of Californians (62% adults, 67% likely voters) say they think Republican control of the House will change the way things are going in this country at least to some degree. Majorities across partisan groups and regions of the state hold this view.
A majority of Californians have either "just some" or "no confidence at all" in President Biden making the right decisions for the country's future
Seven in ten California adults and more likely voters (78%) say they do not think that Biden and the US Congress will be able to work together to accomplish a lot in the next year (will be able to work together: 27% adults, 20% likely voters). Compared to a year ago, these shares have increased among adults (59%) and remained similar among likely voters (72%), but views completely flipped after January 2021, when 69% of adults and 64% of likely voters said Biden and Congress would be able to work together. Today, strong majorities across partisan groups are pessimistic, as are majorities across demographic groups; the share that is pessimistic increases with rising income and education levels and is far higher among those with at least some college. Six in ten or more across the state’s regions say Biden and Congress will not be able to work together in the next year.
With a divided legislature, an overwhelming majority have doubts about whether the president and Congress will be able to work together in the next year
Approval of State and Federal Elected Officials
After Newsom won reelection to a second term as California’s governor, majorities of adults (58%) and likely voters (57%) continue to approve of the way he is handling his job, while fewer disapprove (40% adults, 42% likely voters). Shares were similar last February (56% adults, 57% likely voters) and approval has been higher than 50 percent since the beginning of 2020. Among partisans today, more than eight in ten Democrats (83%) and a majority of independents (55%) approve of Newsom, compared to just 12 percent of Republicans. Majorities approve across demographic groups, with the exception of adults with some college education (47%) and white adults (49%). Strong majorities of Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area residents approve of Newsom, compared to about half among Inland Empire, Central Valley, and Orange/San Diego residents. Majorities approve of Newsom’s handling of jobs and the economy (57% adults, 56% likely voters) as well as the state budget and taxes (52% adults, 53% likely voters).
Californians are split when it comes to the state legislature—with about half of adults and likely voters (49% each) saying they approve of the way it is handling its job (disapprove: 48% adults, 50% likely voters). Partisans are deeply divided on this matter, with most Democrats approving, while Republicans and independents are far more likely to disapprove. Across regions, half or fewer approve, with the exception of six in ten in Los Angeles.
A majority approves of the governor, while about half approve of the state legislature
PPIC Statewide Surveys, 2019–2023.
A majority of adults (53%) and likely voters (56%) continue to approve of President Biden, while fewer disapprove (45% adults, 44% likely voters). Approval among all adults is identical to last February (53%), and at least half have approved since the beginning of Biden’s tenure as president. Views are deeply divided along party lines, with nearly eight in ten Democrats and half of independents approving, while nine in ten Republicans disapprove. About half or more across most demographic groups approve, except among whites (45%) and adults with some college education (41%). African Americans, Latinos, and college graduates are the most likely among demographic groups to approve of Biden. Across regions, about two in three in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area approve, compared to fewer in other regions. Forty-one percent of adults nationwide approve of Biden according to a January Gallup poll. Majorities of California adults (53%) and likely voters (56%) approve of Biden’s handling of jobs and the economy.
Approval of the US Congress is far lower compared to presidential approval, with just 27 percent of adults and 22 percent of likely voters approving today, while most disapprove (70% adults, 77% likely voters). Approval among adults is similar to a year ago (32%) and has never eclipsed half since PPIC started asking this question in October 2005. Today, solid majorities across partisan lines disapprove. Majorities across age, education, gender, income, racial/ethnic, and regional groups disapprove. Views among Californians are similar to the opinions of the nation as a whole, according to a recent Gallup poll in which 22 percent of adults nationwide approved of Congress and 73 percent disapproved.
A majority approves of President Biden, while approval of Congress remains low
PPIC Statewide Surveys, 2021–2023.
After an eventful year of judicial decisions that eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion, established a right to carry guns, and limited efforts to address climate change, a majority of California adults (59%) and likely voters (63%) disapprove of the US Supreme Court, while fewer than four in ten express approval (37% adults, 36% likely voters). Approval was much higher the last time we asked this question in January 2017 (57% adults, 53% likely voters). Partisans are divided, with majorities of Democrats and independents disapproving while about six in ten Republicans approve of the US Supreme Court. Majorities across most demographic and regional groups disapprove, with the exception of 49 percent of adults with a high school education only. Fifty-two percent of adults say the US Supreme Court is too conservative, 15 percent say it is too liberal, and three in ten say it is about right—with partisans having sharply different perceptions. An overwhelming majority of Californians support term limits for US Supreme Court justices.
With Representative Kevin McCarthy winning election as House Speaker after a five-day, 15-ballot floor fight, strong majorities of Californians have an unfavorable impression of him (66% adults, 70% likely voters). Just over a quarter have a favorable impression (28% adults, 27% likely voters) today. Majorities across demographic and regional groups hold an unfavorable impression.