Based on the latest California Community Poll conducted this month, more than 40% of Californians are contemplating leaving the state, with over half of them attributing the decision to the high cost of living, particularly housing expenses.
The poll was a collaborative effort between Strategies360, a public affairs research firm, the Los Angeles Times, The Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality, and the Los Angeles Urban League.
It covered various topics, including residents’ financial well-being, sense of belonging in their communities, and trust in the political systems.
The survey findings align with similar sentiments expressed by participants in LAist’s survey of Angelenos regarding the most pressing issues that Mayor Karen Bass should address.
More than half of the respondents in that survey indicated that they had seriously considered moving away from Los Angeles in the past year, either frequently or occasionally.
According to Dan Schnur, a professor of political communication at UC Berkeley, Pepperdine, and USC who helped oversee the survey, people appreciate many aspects of California’s lifestyle and culture but are increasingly finding it financially unsustainable to establish roots there.
Respondents expressed positive views about the state’s diversity, their sense of safety, and the abundance of enjoyable opportunities.
In fact, 71% of respondents stated that they were either very or somewhat happy with their lives in California overall. However, despite this satisfaction, 40% of them are still contemplating leaving.
“There’s a contradictory push and pull here,” Schnur explained on LAist’s public affairs show AirTalk. “Currently, it’s what keeps most Californians in the state, but they are increasingly concerned about whether they can afford to stay or not.”
Schnur noted a contrast in respondents’ perceptions of race relations at the local and national levels. They had highly positive views of diversity and racial relations within their own neighborhoods and even across California as a whole. However, they held extremely negative views on the same factors when it came to the national level.
“If you are an individual who concerns yourself with such matters, whether you’re a person of color or not, that becomes a primary deterrent to leaving the state, without a doubt,” Schnur remarked.
Over 60% of residents reported feeling accepted and belonging in California, and this figure rose to nearly 66% among Black residents.
Schnur mentioned that these figures might be somewhat unexpected due to the partners involved in the poll, such as the Los Angeles Urban League, who possessed cultural competence and expertise within their respective communities. This allowed them to ask more insightful questions that elicited striking responses.
Political affiliation also played a role in the overall level of optimism, with a clear divide along partisan and racial lines, as noted by Schnur.
While most Californians considering leaving cited the increasing cost of living as their main reason, Republicans and self-identified conservatives were more likely to contemplate leaving due to the state’s political priorities.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on almost every aspect of American life, and the poll reflected this as well, according to Schnur.
Prior to the pandemic, the poll indicated much higher satisfaction levels concerning economic issues, public safety, education policies, and other areas. However, these numbers dropped significantly during the pandemic and have yet to fully recover.
“Even though most of us think of COVID as a thing of the past, it still lingers on, not only in terms of health but also in our attitudes toward California,” Schnur emphasized. “And that has become one of the driving forces behind people considering leaving.”