"Living in California Is No Longer About Striking It Rich"

Is the California dream fading?

It's a constant topic in a state where rents and housing prices top the nation, where more people than in any other state are living in poverty, and where some of the world's wealthiest people thrive as the cost of living seems to throttle upward mobility for many.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that, despite all that, the dream is alive — but with some caveats.

More than 7 in 10 California voters say they'd still rather live here than anywhere else, according to the poll. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said our climate is what keeps them here. 

Only 18 percent of voters said "family, friends and the people" were keeping them here. Seventeen percent said it was the state's "progressive atmosphere."

Of course, only 12 percent cited "employment and earnings potential." And therein lies the rub.

"California voters love the weather, the environment and the culture of the state, but they have real concerns about the future and cost-of-living issues here," said Matt Rodriguez, a USC Dornsife Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics fellow.

In fact, we generally think that life is getting worse in the Golden State.

Forty-two percent of respondents believe that California will be a worse place for the next generation, USC Dornsife found. Only 1 in 4 voters, 24 percent, felt it would be the same.

About 1 in 4 voters said they're more likely to move out-of-state than they were in the past. Among those folks, the biggest reasons to pack up include the cost of living (31 percent cited that factor), employment (20 percent), taxes and business climate (19 percent), government and politicians (12 percent), the cost of owning a home (11 percent) and traffic and overcrowding (11 percent).

Drew Lieberman, who as vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research helped conduct the poll, said:

Living in California is no longer about striking it rich, but about looking past the high cost of living and shrinking opportunities for the lifestyle that it offers. There’s undoubtedly some real angst among Californians about the state of things. But given a binary choice between their finances and their lifestyle, at the end of the day, Californians will still pay a premium for what California offers.

According to the poll, "dealing with immigration" was one of the worst things about living in the Golden State. Here are a few of your least favorite things about California (the first number indicates voters believe the issue is "excellent or good," the second indicates they believe it is "poor"):

Those issues universally panned were: traffic and congestion (17-82); being able to afford housing (20-78); being able to buy a home (29-66); government spending (29-65); taxes (31-66); being able to afford college (30-66); income inequality (33-59); government corruption (31-55); and dealing with immigration (35-57).

The death and rebirth of the California dream — a home, successful entrepreneurship, a chance at stardom — have both been declared so many times that the process of Golden State rejuvenation itself has become a key facet of the state's character.

"California is everything and nothing at all," the state's preeminent historian, Kevin Starr, once wrote. "It is the cutting edge of the American Dream — a utopia. But it could also become the paradigm of the dream lost — a nightmare dystopia."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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