News Column

Californians' Optimism Is on the Rise

December 6, 2012

Timm Herdt

After five years of pessimism amid a dark economic climate, Californians are beginning to believe that the sun is rising again. A survey released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds state residents are more optimistic about the direction of their state than at any point since June 2007, before the onset of the economic downturn.

Among adults, 44 percent believe California is generally headed in the right direction, up dramatically from July 2009, when only 14 percent held that view. Additionally, 42 percent believe the state will be a better place to live in 2025, while just 28 percent believe California will be in worse shape.

The rising optimism is reflected in Californians' views of their elected officials, the poll found. Gov. Jerry Brown's approval rating stands at 48 percent, the highest level of his term, and approval of the Legislature, which approached single digits during the depth of the recession, has climbed to 34 percent.

The wide-ranging survey, conducted Nov. 13-20, interviewed 2,001 adults over land lines and cellphones about their views on a number of state policy and political issues. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

At least some of the optimism expressed by respondents appears to reflect increasing confidence in the state's ability to deal with its annual budget in the wake of passage of Proposition 30 last month.

That measure raises taxes on couples with incomes of $500,000 or more for seven years and increases the sales tax by one-quarter percent for four years. Nearly half of respondents -- 46 percent -- said its passage makes them more optimistic about the state budget situation, with 23 percent saying it makes them more pessimistic and 28 percent saying it had not changed their views.

With one exception, however, respondents said they have no appetite for further tax increases.

They overwhelmingly oppose the ideas of extending the sales tax to cover services as well as goods and of raising the vehicle license fee that Californians pay each year to register their cars and trucks. However, by a significant majority (58 percent), likely voters support the idea of creating a split-roll property tax that would treat commercial properties differently from residential properties.

"Many Californians are feeling positive about the state's outlook now and optimistic about the future," said pollster Mark Baldassare. "But they are also feeling fiscally frugal. They are strongly opposed to raising their state taxes and strongly in favor of spending limits."

The poll found nearly two-thirds of Californians (65 percent) favor setting a limit on the amount state spending can increase each year and nearly three-fourths (72 percent) say that above-average revenues in any given year should be deposited in a rainy-day fund for use during future economic downturns.



Source: (c) 2012 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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