Next Tuesday, Californians go to the polls to vote in the gubernatorial primary elections. Although the system was in effect in 2012, this year marks the first time that new rules also apply to California’s seven partisan statewide offices.

The principal rationale behind 2010’s Proposition 14 was to increase ideological moderation in California politics, hence alleviating partisan bickering and legislative gridlock. So far, Californians aren’t so enamored by the new system. According to the recently released May Golden State Poll (click here to read the results), a plurality of self-identified registered voters (45 percent) said the open primary will not “lead to progress on important public policy issues” in California.

While the Golden State Poll reinforces the narrative of Brown cruising to re-election, it also suggests his strong showing masks issues Californians want seriously discussed. In his quest for a historic fourth term, Brown is 24 points ahead of his nearest competitor, State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly. Donnelly, in turn, leads his main Republican opponent, former Treasury official and businessman Neel Kashkari, by 7 points. By over a 2-to-1 ratio, pro-Brown supporters say they’re voting for the governor rather than against his Republican opponents.

Electorally, this is great news for Brown; he’s sailing to re-election and, regardless of who his opponent will be in November, he’ll have plenty of resources against a lesser-known, lesser-established candidate.

Still, a nonstarter of a governor’s race may not be good news for California. In the absence of a competitive, high-profile contest at the top of the ticket, many important and challenging issues the Golden State faces will continue to go unacknowledged or even without debate.

Earlier this month, Brown confidently told the California Chamber of Commerce, “California is definitely back.” But as described in the essay “What California Comeback?,” there’s a serious disconnect between Sacramento leaders and Californians. This latest Golden State Poll backs that up: twice as many Californians say they’re financially worse off than better off versus a year ago. Among California’s financially most vulnerable (those making less than $40,000), that ratio increases to 3-to-1.

Looking prospectively, the news doesn’t get much better. Most Californians think their family’s financial situation will be the same six months from now. As described in January’s Defining Ideas piece, it’s as if Californians feel stuck in neutral while they’re trying to drive uphill.

This malaise regarding California’s economy comes into view when respondents address their policy priorities. For instance, the December Golden State Poll found 71 percent of respondents saying Sacramento’s top priority should be “strengthening the state’s economy.” And when asked how the state’s projected budget surplus should be spent, two of the four most cited priorities were economic in this most recent Golden State Poll: “taxpayer refunds” (20 percent) and “rainy-day fund/state cash reserve” (12 percent).

Without a competitive gubernatorial race to draw these issues into the public forum, Californians will be left with just legislative debates. And here, the issues being pushed by Sacramento’s legislative leaders are not in sync with the public’s concerns. For instance, a top priority of outgoing state Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg is using the state’s budget surplus to advance universal preschool in California. His way to get it is by using high-speed rail, one of Brown’s top priorities, as leverage in June’s budget negotiations. However, in December’s survey, high-speed rail was last among respondents’ top priorities for Sacramento (a mere 10 percent). In the latest survey, universal pre-school received all of 2 percent as a preferred use of the budget surplus.

After three Democratic state Senators were suspended by their colleagues, the state legislature has been quickly passing ethics reform legislation. Yet, these only tinker around the edges and are not likely to stymie future violations. In this latest survey, 56 percent of respondents named either “a culture of corruption within the state legislature” or a “personal lack of character” as the reasons behind the recent corruption. Without a competitive gubernatorial race, a full-throttled debate on Sacramento’s political culture will go largely unnoticed despite valiant attempts by down-ballot candidates, like many running for Secretary of State, to bring it to the fore.

And with the state facing a prolonged drought, voters are left with a water-shortage discussion focused on how expensive and expansive a November water bond ballot proposition should be; largely missing is a debate on how to strike a balance between California’s competing priorities: agriculture, residential, commercial, and environmental. Yet, more than half of the survey’s respondents (53 percent) said they’d support relaxing environmental laws to address future water shortages.

As Sacramento leaders continues to talk platitudes about a “California comeback” and headlines scream of lower unemployment and a rising budget surplus, residents of the Golden State continue to be wary. In three straight surveys, Californians appear disconnected to these so-called better economic times. In this latest survey, they are neither thrilled by the new voting system, nor on the same budgetary page with lawmakers. And they are cautious of their elected representatives.

The bottom line is that it’s good to be the Governor of California. But not so good if you live and vote in his Golden State.

The original unabridged version of this analysis can be found on the Hoover Institution’s online journal, Defining Ideas. To view the survey, please see Hoover’s Advancing a Free Society – Eureka

Follow Carson on Twitter: @CarsonJFBruno

Carson Bruno, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, primarily focuses on California economic, electoral, and public policy analysis.