USC poll highlights the economy, homelessness and violence against election workers as top voter issues

A recent USC Price poll shows that Golden State voters agree on many issues, such as concerns about inflation and homelessness, but that they are significantly divided on questions about free speech and environmental regulation.

November 07, 2022 Nina Raffio

The latest USC Schwarzenegger Institute-USC Price California Issues Poll provides a snapshot of California voters’ attitudes ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The randomized poll, conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, asked a representative sample of 802 registered California voters a series of questions about their candidate preferences and opinions on a wide range of public policy issues, from environmental protections and reproductive freedom to the regulation of online hate speech.

Surprising findings from the poll

California voters are largely divided on the regulation of free speech on social media. 

While 22% of voters said that social media platforms have been balanced in their approach to free speech, the rest are evenly divided on whether social media companies are too strict (39%) or not strict enough (39%) in regulating speech on their platforms.

“There are gendered differences in attitudes, as 47% of men said companies are too strict in their regulations while 44% of women said they are not strict enough. California voters were also divided in their approval of Elon Musk purchasing Twitter, with 32% strongly approving and 33% strongly disapproving,” said Raquel Centeno, one of the lead researchers on the poll and a current doctoral candidate at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Knowing about the threats that election workers face actually motivates Californians to participate in the democratic process.

Nonpartisan election administrators and poll workers face increasing threats and intimidation as political polarization produces more contentious elections.

“As voters go to the polls, there are huge threats to election workers. While these threats are terrible, there is a surprising upshot. Our poll shows that voters who have heard about threats and intimidation to election workers want to participate more in the democratic process,” said Christian Grose, professor of political science and public policy at USC Dornsife and academic director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute at the USC Price School of Public Policy.

“Thirty-five percent of voters said they wanted to sign up to become a poll worker to help administer elections in the future when hearing about threats to election workers. Independent voters were particularly interested in signing up to be a poll worker (41% said they were willing to be a poll worker after hearing about threats, higher than interest from both Democrats and Republicans).”

Voters are split on Proposition 30, the ballot measure that would tax California earners of $2 million or more annually to fund electric vehicle expansion and wildfire prevention programs.

While 53% of voters in the poll support this ballot proposition, 47% oppose it.

“Prop 30 appears to be the only proposition that is a real nail-biter,” said Grose. “This proposition increases funding for environmental initiatives, but also increases taxes. It has been subject to a number of advertising campaigns on both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ sides of the proposition.”


Where Californians agree

Democrats are on track for a resounding victory.

“California voters are sending a message that the vast majority are supporting Democrats for Congress and statewide offices in 2022,” said Grose.

“On the generic ballot, Democrats are set to receive about 63% of the vote across the state for Congress. How this plays out in individual districts will be key to control of the U.S. House, as a number of districts in Orange County, Riverside County and the Central Valley will help decide whether the Republicans or Democrats control Congress.

“At the state level, Californians place Democrats in the driver’s seat with overwhelming support for the reelections of Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Alex Padilla. Unless Republican voters see very high turnout while Democratic voters do not turn out, California is likely to reelect most or all of its Democratic statewide officeholders,” he added.

Californians share concerns about inflation, homelessness, the environment and reproductive freedom.

Golden State voters generally agree that inflation and the rising cost of living are the most important issues facing the state, followed by homelessness and the environment/climate.

Voters also support Proposition 1, which would amend the state constitution to include the fundamental right to reproductive freedom and abortion. According to the poll, it is favored by a majority of Democratic and Republican voters in the state.

View the full report here.