Equilibrium & Sustainability

Californians see drought as top priority, demand more action: survey

Gavin Newsom
FILE – California Governor Gavin Newsom answers questions at a news conference in Los Angeles, on June 9, 2022. As President Joe Biden runs up against the limits of what he can do on abortion, gun control and other issues without larger Democratic majorities in Congress, some in his party want more fire and boldness than the president’s acknowledgement of their frustration and calls imploring people to vote in November. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Californians in a new statewide survey cite drought and water supply issues as their chief environmental concern for the third year in a row.

Thirty percent of respondents ranked water as the most pressing issue — topping wildfires and climate change, which garnered 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively, in the poll, released by the Public Policy Institute of California.

About 68 percent of respondents, regardless of political affiliation or region, said they consider the state’s water supply to be a “big problem,” per the survey.

“Strong majorities want state and local governments to do more to address drought and climate resilience, and they support ambitious climate action from the state,” the authors wrote in a blog post accompanying the report.

Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California surveyed 1,648 adult residents from July 8 to July 15 in both English and Spanish through a third-party market research firm, according to the team. 

They presented results for five geographic regions, which they said represent about 90 percent of the state population.

Respondents spanned a wide range of demographic and socioeconomic groups, and just over half were men. About 47 percent self-identified as registered Democrats, 24 percent self-identified as registered Republicans, and 29 percent self-identified as independents or another party or declined to state.

Asked how they view the way that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is handling California’s environmental issues, 59 percent of respondents said they approve, while 39 percent disapproved and 2 percent said they didn’t know.

The exact same percentages applied to the governor’s treatment of jobs and the economy, according to the survey.

Public opinion on the California legislature’s handling of environmental issues was slightly lower, with 55 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving.

Only 7 percent of respondents said they could trust the state government on environmental issues “just about always,” while 43 percent said they could “most of the time” and 49 percent said they could “some of the time.”

Ahead of November’s gubernatorial elections, 45 percent of respondents said that candidate positions on environmental issues are “very important,” while 42 percent answered “somewhat important.”

Despite their relative satisfaction with both Newsom and the state legislature on environmental matters, about 68 percent of respondents said that state and local governments are not doing enough to respond to the statewide drought.

Newsom asked Californians to voluntarily curb water use by 15 percent last year and then enacted emergency regulations this spring. But the survey’s authors likewise stressed that these efforts may be insufficient.

An increasing number of California households are reporting that their drinking water wells are going dry, with residents of small communities especially at risk, according to the researchers.

“California’s challenges are urgent, and the state has shown strong willingness to dedicate its budgetary surplus to environmental goals,” the authors stated.

“Given the severity of looming environmental threats, continued state attention on these matters will be critical — and public opinion clearly supports more swift action from government,” they added.

Tags California Drought Gavin Newsom Western drought
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