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SoCal Residents Want More Action on Housing, Worker Rights

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As part of an ongoing collaboration and partnership with the Southern California News Group, the Center for Social Innovation has been conducting surveys in the region since 2018. With the recent release of our SCNG/CSI-UCR Fall 2020 Survey, we now have three years of opinions and attitudes available to analyze. For each year, we asked respondents to rate how both local and state governments were doing on a variety of issue areas including issues like homelessness and environmental protections. 

The percentage of respondents who reported local and state governments were “not doing enough” on each issue has risen since 2018 in each issue area. This means that, in general, Southern Californians have grown more concerned about these issues over time. This growth is not across the board with certain issue areas having significantly larger percentage increases than others. 


Below are some of the key findings from this time trend analysis. Keep reading for a more in-depth discussion. Additionally, you can find survey results from each year on our website.

  • Since 2018, the percentage of respondents reporting that both local and state governments are not doing enough has increased for each issue area.
  • There were moderate changes between 2018 and 2019, but the largest gains in 2020. This could partially be explained by a general increase in concern surrounding things like the pandemic, social unrest, and the 2020 election. 
  • In terms of local government, the two biggest areas of concern for residents were homelessness and affordable housing, with roughly 73 percent of respondents in 2020 saying local governments are “not doing enough.” These two issue areas have increased in recent years, but have been rated the highest in all three years of the survey. 
  • In terms of a percentage increase, protecting worker rights has increased as an area of concern by 18% since 2018. This was the largest increase from 40% in 2018 to 58% in 2020 saying that local governments are “not doing enough” to address this issue. 
  • At the state level, the two issues in which respondents are saying the state government is “not doing enough” are, again, homelessness (80%) and affordable housing (77%). Likely, these two issue areas are inherently linked at both the state and local level. 
  • At the state level, the largest percentage increase from 2018 to 2020 is addressing government pensions (17% increase), and in affordable housing (16% increase).

Local Government

According to the SCNG/CSI-UCR Fall 2020 Survey, 73% of SoCal residents reported that they think the local government is “not doing enough” on the issue of homelessness. The second highest issue area reported was access to affordable housing at 72%, essentially tied. Intuitively this makes sense. The lack of affordable housing can lead to high rent burdens (rents which absorb a high proportion of income), overcrowding, and substandard housing. This, in turn, can force many people into homelessness. The lack of affordable housing in California has also put a large and growing number of people at risk of becoming homeless. 

Note: Values do not add up to 100 because they are compared across years

Since the survey began in 2018, housing and homelessness have always been the top two issue areas, with modest increases over time. This stagnation speaks to the overwhelming need for all levels of government to act on the homeless and housing crisis we face in the region and beyond. Of course, any solution to these complex problems will have to be multifaceted and well-funded. Additionally, it is important to note that there is some great work already being done in the region by local governments and community organizations, with little resources. As we continue to combat homelessness and create more affordable and accessible housing, more funding and resources are needed from the top down. 

In terms of a percentage increase over time, the largest increase in concern in the three years we have been conducting this survey is in protecting worker rights. Fifty-eight percent of residents said that local governments are “not doing enough” to address worker rights, up from 40% in 2018. While all issue areas have increased, this jump could be directly related to the economic downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty surrounding job loss and the economy. Other notable percentage increases are in both environmental protection and regulation, which are tied at a 13% increase since 2018.

State Government

The concerns surrounding local government are mirrored at that state level as well. Again, homelessness (80%) and affordable housing (77%) are by far the two issues in which respondents reported that the state government is not doing enough to address. This percentage has also increased since 2018, with an 11% increase in homelessness and 16% increase in affordable housing concerns. Although the state government is working in multiple ways to address these issues, these actions do not appear to be adequately mitigating these growing problems. In fact, with the recent economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the issues of homelessness and housing will likely get worse with many out of work and struggling to pay rent/mortgages. The full impact of the pandemic on homelessness and housing is yet to be seen, but recent research has noted that the economic impacts and subsequent recession are likely to be significantly worse the Great Recession of 2008.

Note: Values do not add up to 100 because they are compared across years


With the results of the recent election still not finalized, what remains clear is that our country is still divided. While many disagree on solutions, the concerns of residents, including issues like homelessness and access to affordable housing, are bipartisan. Despite the outcome of the election, our nation will be facing party gridlock at the federal level making it very difficult to pass legislation to address these concerns. This is why it will be increasingly likely that states, specifically progressive states like California, will take on more of these issues in state houses and through local governments. To tackle these problems in an inclusive and comprehensive way, all parties, including community organizations and leaders, local and state governments, and the residents themselves, need to have power and a seat at the table.

For full survey results please visit: SCNG/CSI-UCR Fall 2020 Survey