By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Heading into Tuesday’s midterm election, voters identified inflation, homelessness and climate change as the top three most important issues facing California right now, according to a new USC Schwarzenegger Institute-USC Price California Issues Poll released Friday.
The poll, which surveyed 802 registered California voters, found 15% say inflation and cost of living is the most important issue facing the state right now, followed by 13% who said homelessness and 11% who said climate change. Other issues, including crime, affordable housing, drought, abortion and the economy were identified by less than 10% of survey respondents.
The poll was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, weeks after millions of Californians began receiving the Middle Class Tax Refund, which lawmakers touted as inflation relief. Gas prices swelled to near-record levels at the start of October, and while prices have declined 95 cents since refineries made an early shift to the winter gas blend, Californians still pay $1.68 per gallon over the national average.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October that he plans to call a special session Dec. 5 for the legislature to consider a windfall tax on the excess profits of oil companies, which he says are engaging in “rank price gouging.”
The new poll comes just a few days before the election, where several Democratic statewide candidates are running for re-election. Most Democratic candidates seeking re-election in statewide election contests have a comfortable lead over Republican challengers heading into Tuesday, the poll found.
The survey indicates that most Democratic candidates in statewide contests “are polling at numbers that indicate relatively easy victories on Election Day,” analysts wrote. Gov. Newsom appears poised to glide to re-election, with 62% of voters surveyed saying they plan to vote for him Tuesday compared to 38% saying they would vote for Gov. Newsom’s challenger, Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle.
Other Democratic candidates hold similar leads – Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Attorney General Rob Bonta, Secretary of State Shirley Webber, Treasurer Fiona Ma and Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara were favored by 60% or more of registered voters surveyed, according to polling results.
Notably, the closest state race on the November ballot is for controller – the official who acts as the state’s chief fiscal officer. Republican Lanhee Chen is the most competitive Republican candidate on the ballot, but Democratic candidate Malia Cohen is still ahead among voters, according to the poll. Ms. Cohen is preferred by 58% of voters compared to 42% who support Mr. Chen.
Analysts noted that the race for controller is the “most electorally competitive statewide election,” with Mr. Chen drawing more support from Independent voters and Asian American voters than most other Republicans in other statewide contests.
Of the seven initiatives appearing on the ballot, voters appear poised by wide margins to pass Proposition 1, which establishes a constitutional right to reproductive freedom, and Proposition 28, a measure that would provide additional funding for arts and music education in public schools. Two sports betting initiatives – Propositions 26 and 27 – are opposed by the majority of voters, according to the poll results.
Voters appear split on Proposition 30, a measure that would raise taxes on high earners to fund electric vehicle incentives and wildfire response. Fifty-three percent of voters polled said they support the proposition, while 47% said they oppose it.
Prop 30 has the support of the California Democratic Party, the American Lung Association, Lyft, environmental groups and a Cal Fire union. Its opposition includes the California Republican Party and Gov. Newsom, who came out against the initiative in an ad released in September.
Every registered voter in California has until Tuesday to return their ballots. Ballots can be submitted at ballot drop boxes across the state or mailed in so long as they are postmarked Nov. 8. Voters can also vote in-person at polling locations on Tuesday. Locations can be found by visiting the Secretary of State’s website.