After an election year shaped by anxiety about the economy and frustration with gridlock in Sacramento, a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California has found that most state voters have little confidence in the ability of their elected leaders to work together.
In a sobering set of findings in the institute’s post-election survey, voters expressed more faith in their peers to decide public policy matters than in their representatives.
Only 33% of California voters said they had “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the ability of the state’s elected officials to craft public policy. By contrast — even though they described the ballot initiatives as confusing — 44% said they trusted fellow voters to make policy decisions at the polls.
“The job that the voters have in making public policy at the ballot box is a very complicated one, and one that’s become quite burdensome, but they value doing that because they hold the elected officials in such low esteem,” said the institute’s president, Mark Baldassare. He noted that the number of voters who don’t approve of the way the governor and Legislature are working together has jumped by 43 points in the last four years: from 36% in a 2006 post-election survey to 79% this year.
“It just tells you the extent to which voters have lost confidence in the governor and Legislature’s ability to work together to solve complex problems — they feel like this is why the burden has come to them,” Baldassare said.
This year, that burden for voters amounted to nine state ballot measures, and the poll looked at voters’ responses to four of them. Illustrating the state’s deep partisan divide, Democrats and Republicans ended up on opposite sides of three of the four initiatives, with nonpartisan independents often leaning in the same direction as Democrats.
Despite their shared frustration with Sacramento, there was a marked difference between Democrats and Republicans on the successful Proposition 25, which will allow lawmakers to pass the state budget with a majority vote rather than two-thirds.