Californians are undergoing a major resurgence.
After two years of having their lives dominated and perhaps permanently changed by COVID-19, they put the pandemic behind them and shift their attention to other old and new concerns.
Predictably, the political atmosphere of the state is undergoing the same transition.
While COVID-19 remains a threat – and may re-emerge as an existential concern – a new poll from UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Government Studies finds it occupies a very low place on California’s list of topics that need attention.
Only 4% of voters, the poll showed, now consider COVID-19 an important topic – 13th place on a list of 15. The list is dominated by affordability (31%), homelessness (29%), crime (23%) and petrol prices (21%).
Housing and homelessness are evident before the pandemic and have now returned as major concerns, while crime and gas prices are newcomers – or the return in a historical sense to the late 1970s, when they dominated the state’s public consciousness and political discourse.
The shrinkage of COVID-19 is evident, not only in the Berkeley-IGS poll, but in the recent actions of state politicians.
Just weeks ago, the Capitol vehemently debated legislation on mandatory vaccinations, but the bills have now been put on hold.
Last October, Governor Gavin Newsom trumpeted that California was the first state to announce plans to make vaccinations compulsory for public school students.
Last week, very quietly, the state postponed the mandate for the school year 2023-24, citing a delay in the full federal approval of shots for younger students.
Newsom’s announcement was just a stunt that reflected his penchant for wanting to be the country’s first in all. Without a postponement, there would have been chaos when teaching resumed in September because so few children would have been vaccinated.
The rise of crime and gas prices as the biggest voter concerns in an election year is forcing politicians to react. For example, Newsom and lawmakers are negotiating some form of direct payments to Californians to offset increases in gas prices and other living costs.
Crime is a more difficult issue because over the past decade, California has softened its treatment of offenders. However, Californians are increasingly concerned about becoming victims of crime as their concerns about becoming pandemic victims diminish.
A sharp rise in homicides, an epidemic of car burglary and smash-and-grab robberies in San Francisco, organized “follow home” robberies in Los Angeles and a gang shooting in downtown Sacramento that left six people killed are among the incidents which nourishes the increased fear.
Crime can have direct consequences for this year’s election. District attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles are facing potential recalls because of their minor penal policies. Their related soul, Justice Minister Rob Bonta, who was appointed by Newsom, could have a hard time winning a full term on his own.
One of the changing priorities of Californians will be who will be Los Angeles’ next mayor. Congresswoman Karen Bass appeared to be on the verge of victory, but a new Berkeley-IGS poll taken for the Los Angeles Times showed that businessman Rick Caruso has zoomed in on a virtual draw after spending millions of dollars on ads. highlighting crime.
“The survey asked voters to choose two questions that were key to how they would vote,” the Times reported. “Homelessness was by far the biggest problem, cited by 61% of likely voters. No candidate has established an advantage on the subject, the poll showed.
“In contrast, Caruso had a 4-1 lead over Bass, among the 38% of likely voters who said crime and public safety were paramount.”
CalMatters is a journalistic venture of public interest committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to Comment.