By Nick Cahill
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – One day after President Donald Trump described the country’s southern border as “very dangerous” and announced a surge of additional troops to the border, a poll released Wednesday says Californians largely don’t believe in either Trump’s wall or his self-proclaimed border crisis.
In the latest snapshot from the Public Policy Institute of California, nearly 70 percent of adult respondents oppose a new border wall while just 27 percent said the immigration situation across the southern border classifies as a crisis. A strong majority also blamed the president and Republicans for the recent government shutdown with nearly half responding that race relations are suffering nationwide.
“Building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border continues to be an unpopular idea, while many Californians say that the state of race relations in America has gotten worse in the last year,” said PPIC President Mark Baldassare.
Most Democrats, nearly half of Independents and 66 percent of black respondents answered that race relations are worse in the U.S. than they were a year ago. Over half of Republicans polled, 60 percent, said race relations were about the same or better, and 54 percent of whites said the same.
The nonpartisan poll comes 24 hours after President Trump pitched Congress and the nation on spending billions for a border wall during his State of the Union address. Trump reiterated claims that his wall will snuff out drug dealers, human traffickers and “ruthless coyotes” and reminded Congress that it had little more than a week to come up with funding for the wall or potentially start another shutdown.
Due in large part to California voters, who voted out several incumbent Republicans last fall, Trump and the GOP are struggling to secure funding for the wall in the Democratic-controlled House. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, has routinely rebuffed the president’s demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding.
According to Wednesday’s poll titled “Californians and Their Government,” more Californians are jumping behind Pelosi and not the president: 48 percent said they approve of the way Pelosi is handling her job compared to a 30 percent approval rate for Trump.
As for the possibility of increased cooperation between the new Congress and Trump, those surveyed have a decidedly bleak outlook with just 25 percent saying that Trump and Congress will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year. Respondents are also pessimistic about the nation’s future, with just 30 percent of adults saying that things are going in the right direction nationally.
“As further evidence of the political fallout from the federal government shutdown, expectations for the president and Congress working together have never been lower,” Baldassare said. “Californians are much more likely to approve of Speaker Pelosi than President Trump or Minority Leader McCarthy.”
The Democrats’ resounding midterm successes nationwide are giving some Californians hope, as 66 percent think that the Democrats gaining control of the House will lead to either some or a lot of change.
The PPIC survey is based on phone interviews with over 1,700 Californians and was conducted during and just after the end of the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. As for demographics, 68 percent of the respondents said they were registered to vote in California, 43 percent are registered Democrat, 24 percent registered Republican and 62 percent said they have a fair or great deal of interest in politics.
State of the Golden State
President Trump’s border wall and illegal immigration rhetoric may not be popular in the state that chose Hillary Clinton in 2016 by over a 30 percent margin, but immigration remains a hot button topic with California voters.
The highest total of respondents (15 percent) said the top immediate issue for state leaders to address this year was immigration or illegal immigration, followed by education (11 percent), the economy (10 percent), environment and global warming (8 percent) and homelessness (6 percent.)
While Californians are dissatisfied with Congress, they are optimistic that state lawmakers will connect with new Gov. Gavin Newsom. Over two-thirds, including 44 percent of Republicans, responded that the Legislature will be able to work with Newsom and accomplish a lot in the next year. A majority of adults (55 percent) added that things in California are generally going in the right direction.
“In wake of the election, there are sky-high expectations that Gov. Newsom and the Democratic-controlled Legislature will be able to work together,” Baldassare said.
Predicting a $21.5 billion surplus, the former San Francisco mayor is proposing major spending on things like education and homelessness and wants to slash the state’s debt in his first budget proposal.
“We are preparing for uncertain times and we are paying down debt in historic ways and we are paying down unfunded liabilities in a way we never have as well,” Newsom said last month.
The governor’s message resonated with those surveyed, as 70 percent said they were in favor of Newsom’s first spending plan after being read various details. Over 75 percent said they approve of both his proposal to increase spending for public colleges and universities by $832 million and spend $1.8 billion in taxpayer funds to expand pre-kindergarten programs.
As is typical for PPIC reports, the non-partisan poll surveyed residents from five different regions of California and contains a 3.3 percent plus or minus sampling error.
The survey also touched on California’s hallmark property tax law passed in 1978 that set base property tax rates at 1 percent of assessed value and limits annual tax increases.
A measure that is eligible for the 2020 statewide ballot would give voters the opportunity to roll back portions of Proposition 13 that deal with commercial property taxes. Critics claim the 40-year-old measure is a “tax loophole” that deprives the state of billions in taxes each year and are pushing the “split-roll” tax reform.
Just over 60 percent answered that Proposition 13 has turned out to be a mostly good thing for the state over the decades, and 47 percent said they would favor the 2020 ballot measure.