Between Aug. 27 and Sept. 27, the Hoover Institution’s Golden State Poll – a partnership between Hoover and the online polling firm YouGov – surveyed 1,000 Californians on economic and energy/environmental issues. Three similar polls will be conducted over next year, checking the Golden State’s pulse on leading economic, policy and political topics.

This is the first half of a Hoover Institution Defining Ideas journal article.  Visit Defining Ideas to read the full text, which includes a section on the poll’s energy and environmental results.

Since November’s election and, with it, a referendum in the Golden State on higher taxes—Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30—reporters have a new pet story: the so-called “California Comeback” and the tale of a state that’s rediscovered its economic footing.

However, judging by the results of the Hoover Institution’s latest Golden State Poll, which surveyed Californians on their economic confidence, the resurgence is fragile, with skepticism easily trumping optimism.

Following the passage of Prop 30, the state became flush with tax revenue, helping to “balance” the budget (that balancing act being a game of numerical smoke and mirrors). However, Californians aren’t convinced Sacramento won’t come a-knocking’ again. 74% of Californians in our Hoover survey believe state taxes will increase either a little or a lot over the next three years—this despite the fact that Prop 30’s tax increases won’t expire until the 2019 fiscal year. Just 15% of Californians think their taxes will remain the same, while 2% believe taxes will decrease.

The Golden State Poll showed that higher taxes are a concern that crosses incomes levels. 75% and 73% of those making between $40,000 and 100,000 and under $40,000, respectively, believe state taxes will increase a little or a lot. Interesting, liberals and Democrats (59% and 67%, respectively) predicted taxes would go up—reaffirming that the State Legislature, with a supermajority of liberal lawmakers in both chambers, has a default position of raising taxes and fees.

Californians not only think taxes are going to go up, but also are worried about covering the higher costs. 51% of Californians are either somewhat unconfident or not at all confident in their ability to pay higher taxes while meeting other expenses. Ironically, those most concerned are the same have-nots that Sacramento politicians invoke in justifying the need for higher taxes: the poor (58%), the less educated (56%) and young adults (53%). Among Latinos, 57% are anxious about being able to pay increased taxes, at a time when they’re becoming a more critical component of California’s business society (according to Census Bureau statistics, Latinos account for 17% of California’s small businesses—which is over half of the immigrant-owned small businesses in the state).

The Golden State Poll also revealed that the state’s shallow recovery—2.5% real GDP per capita growth compared to 3.7% and 3.3% during the previous two recoveries—is stagnating family finances. 47%  of Californians said their family’s finances are about the same as they were a year ago; 54% believe their family’s finances will remain stagnant over the next 6 months (with strong majorities among both age extremes, whites, Latinos, females, the less educated, and the middle and upper classes).

The weak recovery is causing employment trepidation among Californians as the state’s unemployment rate hovers around 9%: 55% of poll respondents said they were unconfident in their ability to find a new job in California within 6 months if they left their current job. This sentiment, again, cuts across those groups Sacramento’s liberal agenda supposedly should be benefiting.

Despite California’s legacy as a retiree destination, the Golden State isn’t looking too hospitable anymore for those on fixed incomes. 54% of Californians are unconfident in their ability to afford retirement in California—that includes 62% of those moving toward retirement (45 to 62 year olds) and 55% of those entering the prime of their job careers (30 to 44 years old).

So while the media may call it a comeback, our poll suggests that Californians aren’t feeling the love as far as their pocketbooks, job prospects, and retirement plans are concerned.

To check out the poll’s full results visit Advancing a Free Society – Eureka

Follow Carson Bruno on Twitter: @CarsonJFBruno