The Great Divide


There have been more than 200 efforts to divide California since it became a state in 1850. The proposals have come in all shapes and sizes. Some have sought to bifurcate the state at the Tehachapis, while others have proposed merging the extreme northerly portion of the state with southern Oregon.

Another has advocated three Californias--Mountain California, Valley California, and Coastal California. Still another has a line from the northern boundary of Los Angeles County down to the border with Mexico, leaving the rest of the state intact. 

Whatever the differences in design, the plans have one common goal--to divide California.

But boundaries aren't always necessarily physical or geographical, and if the latest poll data is a guide, California is already divided philosophically and economically. And the chasm is only becoming wider over time.

According to the latest data mined by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), Californians are very divided over the state's current condition and future. Divisions occur by political party, income, and age groups, but some of the most intriguing comparisons are found with respect to race. 

For example, Whites are much more pessimistic about the future (68 percent) than Asians (57 percent) and Latinos (48 percent), leaving an expectations gap of 20 points.

Contrast also exists with respect to trust of state government. To be sure, cynicism is low across the board, but again differences emerge. The PPIC poll found that 84 percent of Whites have low levels of trust, compared to 74 percent of Asians and 58 percent of Latinos. 

Similar differences exist over concern about the state's budget. On this topic, 80 percent of Whites consider the budget situation a big problem, considerably higher than Asians (68 percent) and Latinos (54 percent). 

These views are even more interesting when they are attached to income levels. Whites generally make about twice the annual incomes of Latinos, with Asians somewhere in between. 

So. what's the take-away here? Whites are most worried about their future, perhaps because with higher incomes they have the most to lose. Meanwhile, Asians and Latinos, don't have as much concern about the future and seem to have greater trust that leaders in state government will fix our problems. It's a curious juxtaposition. 

Given that two-thirds of the state legislature is White. Yet, these numbers may also provide a bit of insight as to why it's so difficult for the parties inside and outside of the policy making process to find common ground. Simply put, they view life very differently.  

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