Steamed: Californians critical of neighbors’ response to drought, poll finds

Drought poll

Houseboats are moored on a shrinking arm of the Oroville Lake reservoir, which is now at 25% capacity because of the drought.

(Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)

Most Californians don’t believe others in their region of the state are doing enough to respond to the four-year drought, with the harshest criticism being dished out in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Statewide, residents consider the drought to be the most critical issue facing California, exceeding their concerns about jobs and the economy. They also support the governor’s order for a 25% cut in water use statewide, the survey found.

“At this point, it gives the sense of crisis people have,’’ said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute.

This was the first time that drought and the state’s water crisis topped Californians’ list of the most important issues facing the state since the PPIC began conducting its polls in 1998.


Still, Baldassare said, the water restrictions remain “hypothetical” for many residents. The public’s reaction may change when local water districts begin implementing the cutbacks, or if residential water bills jump as local utilities increase charges to discourage over-watering.

Statewide, 46% of Californians believed the 25% cut in water use mandated by Gov. Jerry Brown, through the state Water Resources Control Board, is the “right amount.” More than a third of those polled thought it wasn’t strict enough, while 12% considered it too harsh.

Among those polled in Los Angeles, 64% thought their fellow Angelenos weren’t doing enough to respond to the drought. In Orange County, 65% felt the same way about residents in their slice of Southern California. In the Central Valley, 49% thought the same about their neighbors, the poll found.

Water officials across the state are scrambling to implement the mandated restrictions ahead of the hot, dry summer months.


The state water board’s plan, approved last month, assigns conservation targets to each of the state’s water suppliers and requires cuts in consumption ranging from 8% to 36% compared with 2013 levels.

Statewide, 39% of Californians considered water and drought to be the most critical issue facing the state, compared with 20% who picked jobs and the economy; 5% for crime, gangs and drugs; 5% for the environment, pollution and global warming; and 4% for immigration, the poll found.

Drought was the top issue in every region of the state.

On behalf of the PPIC, the polling company Abt SRBI Inc. canvassed 1,706 California residents by telephone from May 17 through May 25. The margin of error overall is plus or minus 3.6%, higher for subgroups.

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