Capitol Alert

Californians say homelessness is a top problem facing the state, survey finds

For the first time, Californians said homelessness is one of the biggest issues affecting the state today, according to a newly released survey.

The Public Policy Institute of California said its poll found that 15 percent of all Californians cited homelessness as the state’s No. 1 problem, as many as said the economy was a top cause of concern.

That finding surprised PPIC President Mark Baldassare, who said his group has been asking California residents the open-ended question “What is the most important issue facing California today?” for 20 years.

“This is the first survey we have seen (homelessness) ranked as a top issue,” he said. “This was one of the most surprising findings in the survey.”

The topic even transcended political party lines, Baldassare said, with Democrats, Republicans and independents alike citing it as a top issue.

“You don’t see that much anymore,” he said.

The issue was an especially big concern in the Los Angeles area, where one in five residents (21 percent) listed homelessness as the most important issue facing California.

Homelessness and the economy were followed by housing (11 percent), immigration (9 percent), and the environment (8 percent).

Californians also said they concerned about the overall direction of the state, with 48 percent of adults and 54 percent of likely voters saying that the state is heading in the wrong direction. The survey found that the number of adults who are optimistic about California’s future is at its lowest level since May 2015.

PPIC interviewed 1,705 adult California residents, including 1,031 likely voters, by cellphone and landline between Sept. 16-25 for the survey.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.