CBS News poll: Californians optimistic about future of state

Most Californians say they are optimistic about the future of their state when they look to the future for the next generation — even if they are more mixed on how things are going right now. Younger adults are among the most optimistic.

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We asked Californians what they think are good and bad things about the state. For most, here’s the good: the food (Californians’ top answer!), the diversity of its people, nature and the outdoors, its culture, and — maybe no surprise, as it’s always been a lure to California — the weather.

But it’s not all sunshine. Few like the traffic, overwhelmingly seen as a bad thing, and with big implications for a lot of Californians, many struggle with the cost of living.

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Cost of living

A majority of Californians report their own financial situation as at least fairly good. This is higher for those with higher incomes and those with college degrees.

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 But even if their financial situation is okay at the moment, it may not be easy to manage living in California. 

Most say the cost of living is at least somewhat unmanageable. This feeling is expressed by majorities in all regions of the state, as well as in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

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Though it is felt across the state, it is not felt equally by all Californians. California’s lowest earners — those with family incomes below $50,000 a year — are the most likely to say the cost of living is unmanageable.

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Income differences are also seen in views about the price of homes and real estate. On balance, Californians earning over $100,000 a year say the price of homes and real estate in their area has been good, rather than bad for their family financially, while most earning under $50,000 a year say it’s been a bad thing for them.

Most of these lower-income residents are renters, and those who rent their homes are twice as likely as those who own their homes to say the price of real estate in their area has hurt them.

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 The California dream

And so the “California Dream” remains something in the state’s collective imagination…. But not everyone thinks they have attained it, or will… and it differs by age and income.

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Older Californians over 65 are more likely than other age groups to feel they have attained it, even though fewer than half of them say they have. The younger adult Californians under 45, by comparison, are more likely to say they will attain it, than say they already have. 

The “California Dream” may be more elusive for those with less money: most earning under $50,000 a year think things in California are going badly, are more negative about the state’s economy and businesses, and just over a third think they will ever achieve the “California Dream”.

Moving

If they had their choice, many are not eager to move — though some are. Two-thirds of Californians say that if they had their choice, they would continue to live in California. Some would move to a different part of California. 

But a third would move away somewhere else entirely.

People who say their financial situation isn’t as good are much more likely to say they would consider leaving, if they had to choose.

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Tech industry

One of the things that has lured people to California over the years is the tech industry. Californians really like the state’s status as a “tech hub.” Eight in 10 think having a lot of the U.S. technology industry located in the state is good for California. 

While high tech may be associated with the Bay Area, California residents across the state tend to feel this way, as well as people of all income and education levels. The most enthusiastic supporters of the tech industry are young people: nearly nine in 10 adults under thirty think the tech industry has been good for California (compared three in four older Californians).

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Immigration

On balance, Californians tend to think immigration from other countries make things better rather than worse for their state. A slight majority of Republicans do feel immigration has made life in the state worse.

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This CBS News survey was fielded by YouGov with a representative sample of 1,856 California adult residents interviewed between August 6-12, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on  the U.S. Census American Community Survey, and the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. The margin of error is ±4.0 points for the total sample.

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