Californians say they’re better off, but still down on state’s economy

Reprinted from the Sacramento Bee

Although far more California voters say they are better off financially than they were a year ago, most remain pessimistic about the state’s broader economy, according to a new Field Poll.

The disconnect between attitudes about personal finances and larger economic conditions runs counter to conventional wisdom, said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo.

“Usually they go together,” DiCamillo said, noting that the dot-com bubble’s burst more than a dozen years ago triggered economic pessimism among Californians that deepened with the Great Recession of 2008. More Californians have been negative than positive about the state’s economy for 13 years in a row.

“We’re digging out from a very deep hole,” DiCamillo said.

Nearly half of registered voters, 48 percent, said they were “better off” financially than they were a year ago, and 27 percent said they were “worse off.” The remaining 25 percent said they experienced no change.

But when asked about the current state of the California economy, 50 percent said these are “bad times” for the state. A third of respondents said the state is in “good times,” and the remaining 17 percent were “in between” or “not sure.”

Members of families with annual household incomes of at least $100,000 tended to be the most optimistic; those with family incomes of $40,000 or less tended to the most pessimistic.

Andrea Torain, a laboratory supervisor for 13 years with the University of California, Davis, said she thinks her family is a little better off than a year ago but that these are bad times for Californians on the whole. “We know a lot of people who have lost jobs and homes,” she said, “I’m talking about family and friends.”

Although unemployment is down, Torain said, she thinks many of the new jobs created pay relatively little. “The jobs being added aren’t jobs you raise a family on,” she said.

A mother of six, Torain said that she sees rising child care costs draining working families’ incomes. Employees are paying more for health insurance, too, she said, while the benefits are getting cheaper.

“The government says the economy is doing better,” Torain said, “but if you ask the people on the street, they’d say it’s not.”