Californians Gloomy About Drought, Point Fingers In New Statewide Poll

The percentage of Californians who foresee a decade's worth of water woes has jumped 17 percentage points since late 2013. (Getty Images)

If you're one of those Californians who thinks it's everyone else wasting water (not me!), then a new statewide poll is right up your alley.

Wednesday night's poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California suggests a growing sense of gloom and frustration across the state about the historic drought that's now in its fourth straight year.

Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed say they think California in the year 2025 will have an "inadequate" supply of water. That's a 17-point increase in the long-term water pessimism since PPIC asked the question in September 2013.

"Wow," said PPIC pollster and president Mark Baldassare. "To me, that was the most dramatic finding in the survey."

The biggest water worriers -- those who said "very inadequate" -- are residents of the Central Valley (59 percent), Republicans (58 percent) and white Californians (56 percent).

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"We've seen a dramatic increase in the numbers," said Baldassare.

But compare that to another finding in this new survey, one that suggests that a number of Californians may not be embracing big changes in their own lifestyle: 66 percent of adults said that people in their part of the state aren’t doing enough.

Translation: It's not me.

"It's as if they're thinking about it as it's somebody else's problem," said Baldassare.

Nonetheless, new government efforts are on the way. A $1.1 billion emergency drought funding proposal cleared the state Senate on Wednesday, and could be headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk by the end of the week.

Los Angeles residents are leading the pack (72 percent) in pointing fingers at their own region for not doing enough in response to the state's water woes.

The poll also finds a rising tide of drought fears when it comes to what Californians see as the state's most important issue. Among likely voters, the drought (24 percent) has surpassed jobs and the economy (23 percent) as the top concern.

On this question, it's interesting to note how the two issues -- the economy and water -- differ by region. The drought outpaces jobs and the economy among Central Valley residents by 15 percentage points, and among Bay Area residents by 17 percentage points. But travel southward and you find the opposite: Los Angeles residents still think the economy (29 percent) is a bigger worry than the drought (13 percent); and in the Inland Empire, the economy (35 percent) outpaces the drought (15 percent) as the leading problem by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

(In the Inland Empire region, 23 percent of those surveyed say water isn't much of a problem. In the Central Valley, only 9 percent agree with that sentiment.)

If anything, the new poll seems to highlight the political and policy challenges now facing the governor and lawmakers -- both when it comes to forging consensus on big ideas and in the event that further water crises may spark discussion of mandatory water restrictions.

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Californians, as with so many issues, don’t speak with one voice when it comes to adapting to the never-ending streak of sunny seven-day forecasts.

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