2022 Bay Area Council Poll Finds Deep Malaise Settling Over the Region
With the Bay Area still working to shake off the jarring and painful effects of the COVID pandemic while long-standing problems like astronomical housing costs and homelessness persist and even worsen, the 2022 Bay Area Council Poll found many residents are in a decidedly grumpy mood. A record 64 percent of residents say the Bay Area is headed in the wrong direction, a 14-point jump over the previous year and the highest level of dissatisfaction since the poll began in 2014.
The region’s sour attitude is starkly reflected in a new Bay Area Mood Index that combines responses on a variety of questions. On a scale of zero to 10, with zero being the most negative, the Bay Area Mood Index registered a sullen 4.5.
The timing of the poll, when inflation was just beginning to spike and Russia had begun invading Ukraine, may have contributed to some of the angst. Still, residents are unquestionably unhappy about the lack of progress in bringing the region’s historic housing shortage and affordability crisis to heel and addressing what feels like an endless homeless crisis, two issues that ranked first and second in a list of residents’ top concerns. The poll also found growing concern about crime, which jumped to third in the list of top concerns just ahead of the region’s overall cost of living.
Residents are also uneasy about the direction of the region’s economy. The poll found 40% of residents think the economy is doing worse than six months ago, possibly reflective of a jobs recovery that has lagged other regions and continuing fallout from the loss of tourism and the slow reopening of local retail and downtown business districts. The outlook for the economy isn’t much better, with fewer residents (29%) expecting the economy to improve over the next six months than those who say it will worsen (32%).
“Like many places across the United States, the Bay Area is still reeling from the pandemic and the devastation it leveled on all of us,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Add to that rising global inflation, continuing uncertainty about the economy and general fear and anxiety about larger geopolitical disruption and you’ve got a perfect recipe for deep gloominess. The poll measures a point in time and while we can’t ignore problems like housing and homelessness that have bedeviled us for years I remain optimistic that brighter days are ahead as we continue to reopen the economy and bring people back to offices and downtowns, add jobs and adjust to tectonic changes in how we live and work. As a society, you just don’t go through what we’ve gone through in the past two years without a major hit to our collective human psyche.”
While residents continue to believe the Bay Area has much to offer, the Bay Area Council Poll found attitudes slipping—in some cases by double digits–on a variety of individual measures. A solid majority say the region is a center of innovation (79%) and offers good educational (72%) and job (74%) opportunities, while 53% say the Bay Area is a good place to raise a family and 56% say it’s a good place to do business. And overall, the number of residents who say the Bay Area is the best place on earth to live dropped to 49% from 57% in 2019 before the pandemic had taken hold.
Still, the number of residents (48%) who said they plan to leave the Bay Area in the next few years remained largely unchanged over last year. Younger renters were the most likely to say they planned to leave. Affordability was a major factor in deciding whether and where to go.
“I’d like put a big asterisk next to this year’s poll to reflect the traumatic circumstances that we’ve experienced over the past 24 months,” Wunderman. “I firmly believe we will emerge from these doldrums, but it’s imperative that we listen to what residents are saying and focus intensely on addressing their concerns. Housing affordability, safety and economic opportunity must be at the forefront of how we respond as policy makers and leaders.”
This poll was completed by EMC Research on behalf of the Bay Area Council among a random sample of registered voters who responded to an email or text invitation to complete the survey. Demographics including age, gender, and ethnicity are representative of registered voters in the 9-County Bay Area. The survey was conducted March 2-9, 2022, and had 1,000 respondents, which carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Previous polls were conducted in 2014, 2015, 2016 (residents of the Bay Area), 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 (registered voters).