California cities viewed as ‘less safe’ by voters, poll shows

A recent poll conducted by Inside California Politics and Emerson College has shed light on how California voters perceive the safety of major cities in the state. This poll comes amidst growing concerns about public safety and crime in urban areas.

Key Findings of the Poll

  • Los Angeles and San Francisco Viewed as Less Safe: A significant portion of voters, 54% for Los Angeles and 59% for San Francisco, perceive these cities as less safe compared to other large U.S. cities.
  • Sacramento and San Diego’s Safety Perception: Conversely, Sacramento and San Diego are largely viewed as “about as safe” as other major cities, with 49% and 51% of voters expressing this opinion, respectively.
  • Partisan Differences in Perception: The poll revealed a stark difference in perceptions based on political affiliation. A higher percentage of Republican voters (74.3% for Los Angeles and 74.5% for San Francisco) viewed these cities as less safe compared to Democratic voters (46.8% for Los Angeles and 54.3% for San Francisco).
  • Crime as a Key Issue: Approximately 11% of voters identified crime as the most significant issue facing California, a slight increase from a previous poll conducted in November. The economy was deemed the most important issue​​​​.

Underlying Factors

  • Homelessness and Crime: The perception of safety in these cities is influenced by visible issues such as homelessness, drug use, and crime. Particularly in San Francisco, the proliferation of homeless encampments, open-air drug markets, and rampant theft have contributed to this perception.
  • Pandemic Aftereffects: The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role, particularly in downtown San Francisco, where about 100 retailers have closed since the pandemic began, a decline of more than 50%.
  • Drug Overdose Deaths: San Francisco is grappling with a severe drug crisis, with 2023 expected to record over 800 drug overdose deaths.

Government Response

  • Supreme Court Intervention: Governor Gavin Newsom has sought the Supreme Court’s help to address the homelessness crisis. This comes after a lower court ruled that banning homeless people from public places was unconstitutional.
  • State Investments: The state has invested billions to address homelessness, with Newsom claiming significant progress in getting people off the streets and removing encampments.

Conclusion

The perception of safety in California’s major cities is a complex issue, influenced by a variety of factors including homelessness, crime, and the aftermath of the pandemic. These perceptions vary significantly among different voter groups, highlighting the subjective nature of safety and the influence of broader societal issues.

As California continues to grapple with these challenges, understanding and addressing the root causes of these perceptions will be crucial for improving public safety and quality of life in its urban centers.

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