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“Silicon Valley Poll” Finds 52% of Bay Area Voters Know Someone Who Has Experienced Homelessness

Poll Surveyed Voters in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

SAN JOSE, CA – March 8, 2020 — Bay Area voters responding to a survey regarding a variety of public policy issues, revealed their attitudes towards homelessness and possible solutions. Key findings from the annual poll of 1,259 voters from January 11-19, 2020 that was conducted for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Bay Area News Group include the following six conclusions:

CONCLUSIONS:

1) An overwhelming eighty-nine percent of voters say homelessness is an “extremely” or “very” serious problem.

2) Seven in ten say homelessness in their community has gotten worse.

3) Voters tend to agree that many people in their community are at risk of becoming homeless and few are homeless by choice.

4) A majority believes communities should prevent people from living in public places due to public safety and public health concerns.

5) Voters are divided on whether they are comfortable with people experiencing homelessness living in their neighborhood.

6) Voters are broadly supportive of policies offering shelter and housing to those experiencing homelessness, but are divided on whether RVs should be allowed on streets and in parking areas.

“The lack of affordable homes has only exacerbated the homeless problem in our region,” said Carl Guardino, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.  “That is why housing is one of the most critical priorities of the Leadership Group and our member companies. When we see data like this that shows the depth of concern among voters in our region, it only helps to solidity and inform our advocacy work, which has produced more than 300 affordable home developments in Silicon Valley, resulting in thousands of new homes built.”

SUPPORTING DATA:

1) An overwhelming eighty-nine percent of voters say homelessness is an “extremely” or “very” serious problem. Two-thirds of voters identified the problem as being “extremely” serious. The high degree of concern about homelessness cuts across demographic groups, but is particularly acute in San Francisco, among renters, Democrats, and women. Additionally, those under age 50 are more likely to say the problem is “extremely serious” than are those age 50 and over.

Views on Seriousness of Homelessness

“I’d like to read you some problems facing the Bay Area that other people have mentioned.  For each one I read, please tell me whether you think it is an extremely serious problem, a very serious problem, somewhat serious problem, or not too serious a problem in your area.”

Figure 1: Seriousness of Homelessness by County and Age

SeriousnessCountyAge
AlamedaContra CostaSFSan MateoSanta Clara18-4950-6465+
Extremely Serious63%68%80%61%64%72%66%55%
Very Serious27%22%15%22%24%17%22%35%

 Figure 2: Seriousness of Homelessness by Gender, Homeownership and Party

SeriousnessGenderOwn/RentParty
MenWomenOwnRentDem.Ind.Rep.
Extremely Serious60%72%59%76%72%62%58%
Very Serious27%19%28%16%20%25%25%

2) Seven in ten say homelessness in their community has gotten worse. This includes nearly half (44%) who say it has gotten “much worse.” Another 22% say it has “stayed the same.” This perception cuts across demographic groups and is especially pronounced in Alameda County and in San Francisco.

Figure 3: Perception of Change in Homelessness

“Would you say that homelessness in your community has gotten better, gotten worse, or stayed the same in the past year?”

ChangeAll VotersCounty
AlamedaContra CostaSFSan MateoSanta Clara
Total Better4%1%4%3%6%4%
Stayed the Same22%16%31%13%26%25%
Total Worse70%79%60%80%62%67%

3) Voters tend to agree that many people in their community are at risk of becoming homeless and few are homeless by choice. As shown in Figure 4, 63% of voters agree that “many people in my area are just one or two bad breaks away from being homeless.” Sixty-five percent disagree with the assertion that “many people who are living on the streets are there by choice” and a majority say they know someone who has experienced a period of time being homeless. Voters have fewer definite opinions about whether people experiencing homelessness in their community have come from somewhere else.

Figure 4: Attitudes Toward Homelessness

“Next, I am going to read you a series of statements related to homelessness. For each one, please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree.”

StatementTotal AgreeTotal Disagree
Many people in my area are just one or two bad breaks away from being homeless63%27%
I know someone who has experienced a period of time being homeless52%29%
Most people who are homeless in my community have come from somewhere else40%33%
Many people who are living on the streets are there by choice30%65%
  • Latinos and African American voters are more likely than others to know someone who has experienced homelessness (71% and 69% respectively) than are white voters (49%) or API voters (36%).
  • Those with household incomes of $120,000 or greater are less likely to know someone who has been homeless (43%) than are those earning less than $120,000 (64%).
  • Renters are also more likely than homeowners to know someone who has experienced homelessness.
  • Renters more frequently agree that many people in their community are just a few bad breaks away from becoming homeless (72%) than do homeowners (55%).
  • Asian and Pacific Islander voters are less likely than other ethnic groups to think many people in their community are at risk of becoming homeless (50%).
  • Conservative voters are most likely to think people are homeless by choice (65%), while only 13% of liberal voters and 34% of moderate voters agree.

4) A majority believes communities should prevent people from living in public places due to public safety and public health concerns. Respondents were asked to choose between two statements expressing different perspectives on homelessness. Fifty-nine percent agree that “communities should prevent people from living in public places like parks, sidewalks, and under freeways because it is a public safety and public health problem.” One-third agree with the alternative statement “As long as there are not enough homes or shelters to house everyone, homeless people have the right to live in public places like parks, sidewalks, and under freeways and keep their possessions with them.”

As shown in Figure 5, The most pronounced differences on this viewpoint fall along the lines of ideology, homeownership, and age. Additionally, Latino voters are more likely than others to think the homeless should be allowed to live in public spaces and residents of Alameda County are more likely to hold this view than are those in other counties.

Figure 5: Attitudes on People Experiencing Homelessness in Public Spaces

PositionAll VotersAgeIdeologyOwn/Rent
18-4950-6465+Very LiberalAll LiberalsMod.Cons.OwnRent
Should Allow People to Live in Public Spaces59%40%27%26%64%48%25%7%23 %45%
Should Not Allow People to Live in Public Spaces33%53%67%63%29%42%69%89%68%48%

5) Voters are divided on whether they are comfortable with people experiencing homelessness living in their neighborhood. Forty-eight percent indicate they are “comfortable having people experiencing homelessness living in my immediate neighborhood, as long as they have a temporary place to live and the services they need,” while 45% agree that they “do not want people experiencing homelessness to be living in my immediate neighborhood.”  This division cuts across major demographic groups.

  • Renters are more likely to say they are comfortable with people experiencing homelessness in their neighborhood (58%) than are homeowners (40%).
  • Liberals are more likely to say they are comfortable with homeless people living in their neighborhood (64%) than are moderates (44%) or conservatives (18%).

6) Voters are broadly supportive of policies offering shelter and housing to those experiencing homelessness, but are divided on whether RVs should be allowed on streets and in parking areas. Ninety-two percent say they are willing to support a policy providing health services to people experiencing homelessness; 70% back a policy creating new supportive housing; 74% support providing compact tiny homes; and 64% support providing safe, sanctioned places for people to camp temporarily.  A majority opposes allowing RVs to park on major streets or in parking areas. When the proposed housing site is defined as being within a half-mile or respondents’ homes, support is far weaker than when no distance is specified.

Voters across party lines offer majority support for the proposals that involve providing services, permanent supportive housing, and tiny homes. Democrats and independents support sanctioned camping sites, which Republicans oppose. The proposal to allow RV parking does not receive majority support from any partisan subgroup.

Figure 6: Support for Policy Proposals to Address Homelessness

Policy ProposalTotal SupportTotal Oppose
Providing more medical, mental health, and substance abuse care to people experiencing homelessness92%7%
Creating new permanent supportive housing sites to help people experiencing homelessness get back on their feet (HALF SAMPLE: within a half-mile of your home)79%19%
Providing compact, one-room tiny homes for people experiencing homelessness for a specified period of time (HALF SAMPLE: within a half-mile of your home)74%22%
Providing safe, sanctioned places for people experiencing homeless to camp temporarily (HALF SAMPLE: within a half-mile of your home)64%34%
Allowing recreational vehicles to park along major streets or in parking areas (HALF SAMPLE: within a half-mile of your home)41%56%

 Figure 7: Impact of Proximity to Respondent’s Home on Policy Support

Policy ProposalWith Distance InformationWithout Distance Information
Creating new permanent supportive housing sites to help people experiencing homelessness get back on their feet (HALF SAMPLE: within a half-mile of your home)71%87%
Providing compact, one-room tiny homes for people experiencing homelessness for a specified period of time (HALF SAMPLE: within a half-mile of your home)66%81%
Providing safe, sanctioned places for people experiencing homeless to camp temporarily (HALF SAMPLE: within a half-mile of your home)50%78%
Allowing recreational vehicles to park along major streets or in parking areas (HALF SAMPLE: within a half-mile of your home)36%46%

Methodology: From January 11-19, 2020, FM3 completed 1,259 online and telephone (landline and wireless) interviews with voters in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. The margin of sampling error for the study is +/-2.8% at the 95% confidence level; margins of error for population subgroups within the sample will be higher. Due to rounding, not all totals will sum to 100%.

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The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, founded by David Packard of Hewlett Packard, is a diverse public policy association of more than 345 dynamic companies shaping the future innovation economy of Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, and the nation. The Leadership Group’s strength is the breadth of its membership ranging from influential technology name brands, start-ups, civic organizations, and others who, together, account for nearly one of every three private sector jobs in Silicon Valley and contribute more than $5 trillion to the worldwide economy. Through collaboration, we work to find solutions to issues affecting the Bay Area’s economic vitality and quality of life including education and workforce development, energy, environment, health care, housing, tax policy, technology and innovation, and transportation. Learn more about us at www.svlg.org.

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