Poll: Drought Is “New Normal”

June 20, 2014

Californians believe this year’s record drought is the “new normal” and favor investments in long-term solutions over short-term fixes, according to a poll released today by the California Water Foundation.

The poll, conducted by a bipartisan team of pollsters — the Democratic polling firm Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates of Oakland, Calif. and Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, D.C., found that Californians blame the drought on a variety of causes but more than three in five point to population growth, and waste of water as “major causes.” Some 85% of Californians continue to view the drought as a “very serious” or “serious” problem, with 48 percent considering it a “serious crisis” — more than triple the number that said that in a 2011 poll.

At the same time, sizable majorities recognize that California’s water supply problems are long-term, and will not be resolved by additional rain. In fact, more than three in five label drought conditions “the new normal.”

However, there is a major partisan divide on the role that climate change plays in the current drought. Some 55% percent of Democrats pin part of the blame on climate change; just 35% of Republicans do. 

Protecting and regulating groundwater — a key issue facing the Legislature this year — is overwhelmingly favored by Californians. Some 94 percent say it needs to be considered in managing future droughts. 

“Californians want both immediate actions in response to the current drought and a plan for the future that addresses the “new normal” of chronic water shortages” said California Water Foundation Executive Director Lester Snow. “This poll shows that Californians are united in thinking that we need to employ all the tools we have to manage water more efficiently and to make investments now that squeeze the most out of the water supplies we have.” 

Voters, for the most part, are far less likely to say they personally have been impacted by the drought, but they believe that others have been significantly affected. Farmers were viewed as the most impacted, with 56% of Californians citing Central Valley farmers as being among the most affected by the drought. Significant numbers also recognized that fish and wildlife are suffering from the lack of water in the state.

More than nine in ten voters agree that California should employ a wide range of potential solutions, from conservation to water storage to recycling. In contrast, voters are divided on rolling back environmental regulations.

Governor Brown is given a vote of confidence in dealing with the drought. Some 56 percent of Californians say he is doing a good job on the issue.

Voters are split on the proper scale of action. Democrats, Latinos, and Southern Californians favor a statewide solution while GOP voters, independents and northern Californians prefer a regional approach. 

A majority would be willing to pay a water fee of as much as four dollars a month to address water supply problems – and even larger proportions express support for smaller amounts.

The poll was conducted from May 29 to June 4 with 800 California voters. Its margin of error is 3.5%.

Link to the poll summary: http://californiawaterfoundation.org/uploads/1403027017-CAVotersandDrought-CWFSurveySummary(00254161-2xA1C15).pdf

Source: California Water Foundation