In summary

Californians approve of Gov. Newsom’s handling of the state’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic and the state government’s response to the crisis.

By Dane Strother, Special to CalMatters

Dane Strother, a partner in Strother Nuckels Strategies, is a Sacramento-based Democratic strategist and communications consultant, danes@mindspring.com. Strother has also written about moving to California.

Almost half of Californians expect it to take three or more months before life is back to normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and a vast majority trust Gov. Gavin Newsom to handle the crisis.

That’s the message Californians sent in a statewide poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by Strother Nuckels Strategies, Democratic strategists based in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento. The survey shows 90% of Californians say their neighbors are taking the virus seriously.

The poll, which surveyed 962 California voters from March 27-29 and has a margin of error of 3.5%, takes a broad snapshot of sentiments across the state on a wide range of issues from coronavirus to taxes to the presidential campaign.

In midst of the crisis, 83% of Californians approve of how Newsom is handling the state’s approach to dealing with the coronavirus. Even supporters of President Donald Trump give the governor high marks with 65% approving of his crisis management. 

Fully 77% of voters trust Newsom and state government to be responsive to the pandemic and future disasters while only 44 percent believe the federal government is capable. The numbers are almost exactly inverse with people who say Fox News is their primary information source.

Another major finding in the poll shows that 80% of Californians adamantly oppose any additional taxes related to coronavirus relief, as evidence by this question:

Some say California needs to raise taxes to fund services and relief efforts around coronavirus, and to shore up the state’s finances hurt by the economic crisis. Others say California doesn’t need to raise taxes right now, because it would hurt consumers, taxpayers, and the economy as we try to recover. Which comes closer to your point of view? 

— 11% think California needs to raise taxes to fund services and relief efforts around coronavirus, and to shore up the state’s finances hurt by the economic crisis

80% think California doesn’t need to raise taxes right now, because it would hurt consumers, taxpayers, and the economy as we try to recover

This anti-tax sentiment is reflected almost 2-1 in a question asking if commercial real estate should be taxed to further fund education. And 54% would oppose higher property taxes on business property in order to generate billions in new revenue for public schools, community college and local government. 

Eighty-seven percent of Californians oppose the “Let them Die” policy recently floated by right-wing media — arguing for a deadly strategy of allowing people to resume their normal, daily lives, which could lead to easily spreading the coronavirus, in order to save the economy. What’s not shocking is that voters 65 and older are the most opposed to this idea, with 90% against.

And while the poll is in no way to be considered a public health bellwether, and we have no expertise in the area, it’s worth noting that 5% of Californians believe they have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.  While there could be a self-misdiagnosis for many, if accurate it means some 2 million Californians currently have the virus despite fewer than 10,000 having tested positive.  

In regards to the presidential campaign, the survey shows former Vice President Joe Biden roundly beating Trump 67% percent to 29%, with just 29% having a favorable opinion of Trump and 64% disapproving, not surprising in deep blue California.

On the bright side, 65% of respondents would rather shelter in place with a spouse or significant other than the 15% who would rather hunker down with only their pet.  We’ll retest this in a month to see if Fido looks like a better home companion after spending a month cooped up in the house with a spouse. 

Bottom line is Californians understand the severity of the situation, they seemingly accept the extended time frame required to resume normal life and they want to hold on to their money. 

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Dane Strother, a partner in Strother Nuckels Strategies, is a Sacramento-based Democratic strategist and communications consultant, danes@mindspring.com. Strother has also written about moving to California.

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