California voters like their state intact, scorn secession talk, poll shows

12/11/2013 12:00 AM

12/11/2013 11:54 AM

Officials in Siskiyou and Modoc counties may want to secede from California, but the rest of the state has no desire to see them go.

Just one-quarter of California voters support allowing the state’s northernmost counties to break away from California, according to a new Field Poll.

Fifty-nine percent of registered voters statewide oppose such an effort, according to the poll. Opposition to the effort is bipartisan, with majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independent voters all opposed.

“I just think it’s an aversion to breaking up California,” poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “They look at the whole state as one entity, and they’re not thinking too fondly of different parts of the state splitting off.”

The poll comes amid renewed agitation in northern, mostly rural California counties to form a new state of Jefferson. Despite little chance of such an effort succeeding, county supervisors in Siskiyou and Modoc passed declarations in September formally supporting withdrawal.

Residents in those areas have long complained that a Legislature dominated by the state’s population centers has failed to protect rural property and water rights, while imposing gun control and other regulations they say are overly burdensome.

A poll that shows Californians disapprove of secession only “makes sense,” said Modoc board Chairwoman Geri Byrne.

“That’s the whole problem in the state right now is that the people in the south are controlling our destiny,” Byrne said. “They make rules and laws that we live under with little or no knowledge of how things are in California.”

Byrne said support for secession is much higher locally, a measure the Field Poll did not take. Because counties near the state’s northern border represent such a small share of California’s total population, the poll said it could not report the sentiment of voters there with any degree of statistical reliability.

Sally Stewart Graham, a Eureka resident who was among those polled, said housing is too expensive and wages too low in Humboldt County. It might benefit Northern California counties to split off, the 45-year-old customer service representative said.

“The rest of California isn’t helping us,” she said. “It’s a whole different way of life up here than Sacramento or L.A.”

But her mother, Suellen Stewart, 76, noted the state social services on which many residents in rural, Northern California rely.

She called secession “a silly idea.”

Secession would require approval of the state Legislature and U.S. Congress.

Field also measured public opinion on an alternative proposal to form a special territory – not a state – in Northern California. The margin of opposition is similar, with voters disapproving of the idea 58percent to 27percent.

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