Thursday, March 14, 2024







        The poll results this spring were startling: fully half of America’s Republicans now believe California is in decline and 48 percent of them think this state “is not really American.”


        That translates to roughly one-fourth of all Americans holding distinctly negative views about California. Those were the conclusions of a survey taken for the Los Angeles Times.


        But most Californians simply shrug their shoulders at this, suggests another study that quickly followed. That one, by the political polling firm YouGov, shows the vast majority of Californians thumb their noses at anti-California sentiment, despite years of overblown talk about “the great California exodus.”


        Yes, the state has lost some population over the last 10 years, leading to the loss of one of its former 53 seats in the House of Representatives. But the 52 remaining Californians in Congress still form by far the largest state delegation, as about 12 percent of the nation’s people continue to live here.


        Most of those folks, despite the reality they could drastically cut living expenses by moving elsewhere, have no intention of leaving. What’s more, a significant number of Californians would be perfectly happy for their state to leave the USA, if it were possible to do that peacefully.


        The second poll, financed by the Marin County-based Independent California Institute, also indicated that 68 percent of Californians believe they would be better off than they are now if the state negotiated for itself a “special autonomous status within the U.S.” and arranged for transfer of almost all federal land and water infrastructure here to state and local governments. More than a supermajority, then, want at least special standing.


        No one should expect anything like quick action toward either that or California seceding outright from the USA, however. For one thing, Gov. Gavin Newsom will not hear of it. As early as 2018, during his first successful run for governor, he said in an interview that secession is ridiculous, a “non-starter.” That was before he became involved in presidential campaigning, while he still denied any interest in the top national office.


        In the new YouGov poll, 29 percent of Californians supported secession, almost identical to the portion of Alaskans and Texans who would like independence for their states.


        But 60 percent of Californians believe the Civil War made it impossible for either this state or any other to simply leave, even if some presidential candidates (Donald Trump, for one) have indicated they actually like the idea of a United States without California.


        As long ago as 2017, Reuters/Ipsos and Stanford University conducted polls that found about 30 percent of Californians supported Calexit, one name for secession. So sentiment on that has not changed much over time.


        But Independent California Institute director Coyote Marin focused on the 68 percent who said they think they’d be better off separated in some way from the rest of America. “Those are much higher numbers than found in polls which simply asked if California should secede,” Marin said.


        No one knows where such numbers might go if Trump were elected this fall and quickly declared martial law, something he considered attempting after his 2000 election defeat.


        The YouGov survey also found that Californians are not nearly as depressed about their state as outsiders. Fully 63 percent of the 500-plus Californians polled in carefully structured sampling said they cannot imagine wanting to live anywhere outside California.


        That’s in stark contrast to the 40 percent of non-California Republicans in the LA Times poll who said they don’t think California is even a good place to visit.


        There’s also the LA Times finding that half of all Republicans nationally would be glad to vote California out of the Union, an act that YouGov indicated would probably be welcomed by most Californians.


        For now, this is all sheer speculation and talk, with no real action on the horizon. But much depends on the November election outcome, which could sharply shift both national attitudes about California and Californians’ feelings about remaining American.




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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