CALIFORNIA — Between a worsening pandemic, a faltering economy, ongoing social unrest, and an upcoming presidential election, Californians have a lot on their minds. In the lead up to what is expected to be one of the most consequential Election Days in modern U.S. history, a new Spectrum News/Ipsos poll has captured public opinion on everything from the COVID pandemic to voting preferences.
Following are results from the poll conducted earlier this month with 1,400 state residents, 824 of whom live in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision used for online polls, of +/- 3.0% for all respondents.
Half of all Californians, including 50% of L.A.-area residents who were surveyed, cited coronavirus as the top problem they are facing today. Most people do not see the situation getting better anytime soon. Two thirds of Angelenos expect it will take six months to longer than a year before life in their city or community will get back to normal; 8% think things will never return to the way things were.
“In California, one out of every two people have been touched by Coronavirus in some way,” said Chris Jackson, senior vice president for Ipsos. “That’s a pretty substantial number and one that feeds into Californians generally being more concerned about the Coronavirus pandemic.”
Statewide, 4% of California’s 40 million residents report being tested and diagnosed with COVID, including 4% of L.A.-area residents. Despite the low rate of testing, another 9% of L.A.-area residents suspect they have or had COVID-19. One in five L.A.-area residents said a relative had been tested and diagnosed with COVID-19, one in four had a friend or acquaintance who had been tested and diagnosed, and one in ten said a relative or friend had died from it.
Seventy percent of Californians, including 74% of L.A.-area residents, agreed that there should be a state law mandating that masks be worn at all times in public. State residents’ favorability toward a mask mandate included a majority of Democrats (83%), as well as Republicans (56%).
Forty-four percent of Californians, including 43% of L.A.-area residents, said they will take the first generation COVID-19 vaccine when it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Just 39% of Californians, and 38% of L.A.-area residents, said they feel comfortable dining inside a restaurant. But 60% of state residents who are employed said they are comfortable returning to their workplace right now, including 57% of L.A.-area residents.
Sixty-five percent of Californians, and 67% of L.A.-area residents, agreed that all colleges and universities should be closed and only offer virtual classes. Less than half of Californians, including 37% of L.A.-area residents, felt their child is, or would be, safe attending school in person.
While 78% of Californians who are parents to a child under 18, including 77% of L.A.-area residents, thought their child had the necessary tools to learn in the current environment, more than half of the survey respondents agreed that their child is falling behind in school because of COVID-19.
“Across the country, people are very intent on taking part in this election,” Jackson said. What makes California different this year is the higher level of people who are using mail or absentee voting relative to a lot of other states, he said. “A lot of people are voting as soon as they’re able to.”
Ten percent of California survey respondents, and 8% of L.A.-area residents, had already voted at the time the survey was taken, between October 7-15.
Seventy-one percent of Californians, including 72% of L.A.-area residents, said they are either somewhat or very likely to vote in the upcoming presidential election. The Californians who are very likely to vote are male, age 55 or older and those who earn at least $100,000 annually; they also tend to hold a college degree, be married, and retired. The Californians who are least likely to vote are 18- to 34-year-olds, who earn less than $50,000, have no college degree, and are unemployed.
Nine percent of Californians, including 9% of L.A.-area residents, said they did not plan to vote.
Fifty-one percent of Californians, including 49% of L.A.-area residents, said voting by mail or absentee ballot was their preferred voting method, regardless of whether or not they intended to vote or had already voted.
Nineteen percent of L.A.-area residents said they prefer voting in person on election day, 16% prefer dropping off their ballot at an election office or polling place, and 7% prefer voting in person before Election Day.
Californians were most confident their vote would be counted if they cast their ballot in person either on or before Election Day. In the L.A. area, 76% of voters were confident their ballot would be counted if they voted in person before Election Day. Their confidence in whether their vote would be counted dropped to 75% for voting in person on Election Day, 74% if dropping off their ballot at an election office or polling place, and 66% for voting by mail or absentee ballot.
“We’re seeing a little bit of that contrast between convenience and the fear of COVID,” Jackson said. “We see a similar pattern across the country where people are more confident in voting in person and less confident in the mail or absentee votes. That’s really a testament to the amount of noise that’s been thrown out in the last couple months about the election process including all the unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud with mail voting.”
Republicans, he added, are less confident in voting by mail than Democrats. In California, 53% of Republicans, and 75% of Democrats, are confident their ballot will be counted if they vote by mail.
Just 64% of Californians, and 63% of L.A.-area residents, said they were likely to trust the outcome of the presidential election, regardless of who wins. Californians who are less educated, unemployed, under the age of 55, and female were less likely to trust the outcome.
When it comes to the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Californians were most impressed by their local governments and least favorable about the federal government. Sixty-three percent of Californians, and 65% of Angelenos, thought the federal government had done just a fair or poor job of handling the pandemic. Comparatively, 52% of Californians and Angelenos said the state government had done an excellent or good job.
President Trump earned low favorability marks amongst Californians. Fifty-six percent of Californians were less favorable toward President Trump as a result of his public comments around mask-wearing and social distancing, 55% were less favorable because of his performance in the first presidential debate, and 50% were less favorable following recent reporting on Trump’s tax returns and the national recovery plan from the coronavirus. One in three report feeling more favorable toward him for his handling of jobs and the economy.
In the L.A. area, President Trump's favorability was on par with California as a whole.
Ahead of November’s election, 57% of L.A.-area residents were less favorable toward President Trump because of his performance in the first presidential debate, and 55% were less favorable as a result of his public comments around mask-wearing and social distancing. Some Angelenos felt more favorable toward Trump for his handling of jobs and the economy (32%).
“There are a number of things people are negative about toward Trump,” Jackson said, noting that Trump was perceived least favorably for mask-wearing, his debate performance, his management of the COVID pandemic, and his tax returns. “California is just a little bit higher than average, but chances are that people either felt favorably or unfavorably toward him to start with.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom earned high marks from Californians for how he is handling his job as governor; 56% of Californians, and 56% of L.A.-area residents, approve of the job he’s doing. In San Francisco, where Newsom had served as mayor, his approval rating was 68%.
Amongst L.A.-area residents, the governor earned his highest approval rating for his handling of COVID-19 (60%), climate change (54%), the ongoing wildfires (53%), jobs and the economy (53%), crime and public safety (53%), and plans for sending children back to school (51%).
He is viewed more positively by Californians over age 35 (60-61% for 35+) than among 18-34 year olds (46%).
While 65% of Californians, including 68% of L.A.-area residents, agreed that police using excessive force against Black or African Americans is a widespread problem, just 43% of Californians support reducing their local police department’s budget to invest in social program; 48% do not. Among L.A. residents, 46% reducing the budget for local police and 45% do not.
“California is higher on a lot of these social justice issues than many other states,” Jackson said, citing polling statistics that more than half of Californians disagree that Black Americans get equal treatment to white Americans and that two-thirds agree racism is a significant problem in California. “It’s not terribly far from all the other states, but it’s definitely a little bit on the leading edge.”