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Poll reflects Californians’ concern over rising crime, call for tougher penalties

A majority of Californian voters are unhappy with the increase in crime the state has experienced and said they would support reinstating penalties for certain thefts, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) poll released Feb. 15, 2022.

The survey co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times found that for 68% of respondents, crimes increased statewide, while 65% perceived the increase at the local level. 

In addition, most respondents (59%) across all political lines indicated they would support changes to Proposition 47.

That law is a ballot measure approved by voters in 2014 by which penalties for various crimes, including theft and drugs, were reduced to lower the state’s prison population.

According to the UC Berkeley IGS poll, 88% of voters on the more conservative side of the spectrum choose to amend Proposition 47. In comparison, 64% of more moderate voters and 41% of liberal-leaning voters said the same. 

Only voters who identify as strongly liberal said in the survey that they largely support Prop 47, with 67% saying they would prefer to keep it as is.

California’s lawmakers, both Republicans, and Democrats, have already introduced some bills to amend Proposition 47.

One of the bills would lower the threshold for the property value to be considered a felony theft offense to $400 instead of the current $950. It would also return numerous drug offenses to felony status.

The online poll of 8,937 registered voters in California conducted on Feb. 3-10, 2022, also reflected a drop in Governor Gavin Newsom’s approval ratings from last year when he won the recall referendum vote to recall him.

While 48% of the state’s voters approve, 47% disapprove. Comparing these ratings to those obtained in the July and September polls last year, when 50% approved and 42% disapproved, and even more so to those obtained in September 2020, when Newsom received a 64% approval rating, we see that voter dissatisfaction with his administration has been increasing. 

The issues voters feel the Democratic governor is managing poorly are housing and safety. 

Sixty-six percent of voters surveyed rate Newsom as doing a ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ job in his handling of homelessness.

Meanwhile, some 51% rate him poorly on crime and public safety, up from 35% in 2020, translating into a 16 percentage point increase in disapproval of his handling of crime. 

“These results suggest that some of the same dissatisfaction that’s hurting Democrats nationally is affecting Governor Newsom’s popularity in the state,” observed IGS co-director Eric Schickler.

However, voters in the poll upgraded the governor’s rating on the state’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 62% feeling the situation is improving, relative to 31% who believe the opposite is true.

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