News

Despite concerns, more voters say they’re better off

According to The Field Poll’s annual assessment of the economic well-being of Californians, 44% of registered voters now report that they are financially better off than they were last year, while 28% are worse off. Another 28% say there has been no change. This is the first time in seven years that more California voters have reported being financially better off than worse off compared to the prior year.

Nevertheless, when asked to describe the overall California economy, more than twice as many still describe the state as being in economic bad times (53%) as good times (25%). Contributing to this assessment are voter concerns about the availability of jobs. Nearly two in three (64%) believe jobs are difficult to find in their area, while just 21% feel they are plentiful. In addition, 52% describe unemployment in California as very serious.
These findings come from the latest statewide Field Poll completed last week.

Despite the improvement in voters’ evaluation of their own financial situation, more continue to describe the overall California economy in negative rather than positive terms. At present, more than twice as many say the state is in economic bad times (53%) as believe it is in good times (25%).

More Californians now say they are financially better off this year compared to last (44%) as report being worse off (28%). Another 28% say there has been no change. This is a much more positive assessment of personal financial well-being than each of six prior Field Polls conducted since 2007, when many more described themselves as financially worse off than better off during the prior year.

However, improvements in financial well-being vary considerably by household income. Voters with higher incomes are far more likely than those with lower incomes to report improvement. For example, among voters with annual household incomes of $80,000 or more, nearly three times as many report they are financially better off than they were during the prior year (58%) as say they are worse off (22%). By contrast, voters with annual household incomes of less than $40,000 are more likely to report being financially worse off this year (37%) than better off (30%).

There is also somewhat greater optimism among Californians that their economic fortunes for the coming year will improve. Four in ten (40%) expect to be financially better off next year, up from 30% who reported this in 2012 and 2013. Voters with annual incomes in excess of $80,000 are the most likely subgroup to express optimism about their finances next year than those with lower incomes.

Despite the improvement in voters’ evaluation of their own financial situation, more continue to describe the overall California economy in negative rather than positive terms. At present, more than twice as many say the state is in economic bad times (53%) as believe it is in good times (25%).

However, this is a less negative assessment than voters expressed in each of the past six years when between 72% and 96% described the state as being in economic bad times.

While voters across all income categories are more likely to describe the state as being in economic bad times than good times, there are significant differences in evaluations across subgroups of the voting population.

For example, there are large partisan differences in perceptions of the overall economy, with Republicans (68%) much more likely than Democrats (40%) to say California is in economic bad times. Also, voters with lower incomes are more apt to describe the state in negative terms than those with higher levels of income. Voters in the San Francisco Bay Area offer a more positive assessment of the California economy than voters elsewhere, with as many saying they believe the state is in economic good times as bad times.

Two in three voters (64%) say that jobs are difficult to find in the area where they live. This is three times the proportion (21%) who maintains that jobs are plentiful in their region.

While more voters across all regions hold to this view, a somewhat smaller proportion of the residents of the San Francisco Bay Area (49%) say jobs are difficult to find in their area. By contrast, lower income Californians are more likely than others to believe jobs in their area are hard to find.

Half of the state’s voters (52%) believe unemployment in California is very serious, 36% say it is somewhat serious and 9% feel it is not serious. While a generally negative assessment, the proportion of voters terming unemployment as very serious has declined each year since 2010, when a record high 89% of voters felt this way.

Ed’s Note: This survey was conducted June 5-22, 2014, using a random sample of 2,013 California adults, of whom 1,382 reported being registered to vote. The survey was administered in six languages and dialects – English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean, depending on the preference of the voter.

 


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