Public Policy Institute of California

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Eroding Trust in Government Among Young Voters

Editor’s note: This story is part of an intermittent series. The Public Policy Institute of California is conducting small focus groups across the state to discuss the role of government, and KQED was invited to listen in. First names only were used to encourage candid conversation.

By Ana Tintocalis

(R. Michael Stuckey: Comstock Images)

20-somethings say they support November propositions that will fund education, but still lack confidence in government. (R. Michael Stuckey: Comstock Images)

A group of Millennials — young people aged 18 to 29 — are gathered around a conference table in a nondescript office building in Silicon Valley.

In just a few minutes, they will be answering some pointed political questions as part of a researched-based focus group organized by the Public Policy Institute of California — a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. The PPIC conducts public opinion polling, but they’re also holding smaller conversations to gauge more detailed opinions from Californians this election year.

On this night participants come from all walks of life — from a teenage grocery store clerk to an engineer at Cisco. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans, and others don’t belong to any party.

But as a group, they are not excited about how the U.S. is doing. “Uneasy,” one person said. “Worried and scared,” was the take of somebody else.

‘Our taxes are going to jails for the inmates to live somewhat well versus [going to] education. When you turn around and graduate, you don’t have a job to go to.’

These 20-somethings are anxious about their prospects for the future and are especially worried about finding a good job in a still-struggling economy.

It’s a far cry from four years ago, when the promise of hope and change bolstered the expectations of young people across the country.

“Government is unproductive. They’re large, they’re bulky, and it’s top heavy. And it shouldn’t be that way,” said Yukata, a young Republican who received his master’s degree at U.C. Davis. “When you look at government, you think of greed. That’s not how our founders wanted the government to be. They wanted our government to be small.”

Some of the others at the table nod in agreement. While they don’t see eye-to-eye on many social issues, one thing is clear: They feel lawmakers have turned their backs on providing an affordable, quality higher education in the Golden State.

Ryan, a San Jose State kinesiology major, says the classes he needs have been slashed, yet his tuition continues to increase.

“I could have graduated in four years, but every semester it was a struggle,” Ryan said. “I’d get my registration date, and there’d be [no classes available]. It’s the most frustrating thing. … You have good grades; you’ve been at the school for four years … and tuition just keeps getting more and more expensive. It just doesn’t make sense.” Continue reading

Young Voters Sound Off in Silicon Valley

(Photo: Stephen Pottage)

Participants in the focus group were vocal about their support for education. (Photo: Stephen Pottage)

With the national conventions behind them now, Republicans and Democrats say they’re all fired up and ready to go — sprinting toward the November election.

Four years ago Barack Obama marched into the White House beside an army of young volunteers. How are voters under 30 feeling about politics now?

As President Obama was giving his acceptance speech Thursday night, a group of younger citizens in Silicon Valley discussed their feelings about the election. Those focus groups are part of KQED’s campaign season series “What’s Government For?” — a joint project with the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California.

“But just about everybody wanted government to do more to improve schools and to make college more affordable.”

While the PPIC does public opinion polling, they also are conducting these smaller conversations to take the pulse of Californians this election year. KQED has already participated in Contra Costa, Fresno and Los Angeles. On Thursday night, 20 young adults — ages 18 to 29 — gathered to talk about their views on government and politics. The group was a mix of Republicans, Continue reading

Central Valley Voters Speak Their Minds at Focus Groups

Editor’s note: This story is part of an intermittent series. The Public Policy Institute of California is conducting small focus groups across the state to discuss the role of government, and KQED was invited to listen in. First names only were used to encourage candid conversation.

By Alice Daniel

I’m sitting behind a two-way mirror in an air conditioned office in Fresno as ten voters enter a meeting room and sit around an oblong table.

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, introduces himself. He’ll lead this focus group and one directly following it. Initially, people look uncertain — as if they’re not sure what to expect. Yet once these people — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — begin talking, the pain and anger they are feeling over the economic and political landscape soon spills out.

Luz, a single mother of a teenager and a one-year-old, said she just got laid off after 11 years as a supervisor for a produce refrigeration company. She’s scared she won’t have the money to raise her children.

“Probably go homeless,” she says. “Too sad. And I can’t relocate right now because of my family. And it just makes me mad also.”

Daniel, a Democrat, is voting for Mitt Romney because he thinks the country needs a change. He works at Lowes but is about to lose his house to foreclosure and he’s wondering whether he’ll have to move out of state. Continue reading

Presidential Campaign Ads Fly but Californians Irked by Partisanship

We’re six months out and the 2012 presidential race is gearing up. President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney are moving into general election mode. And the Super PACs that support them — and can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money — are charging into the race.

The cash is flowing. The ads are flying. But what will voters take from it all?

The Obama campaign announced it would spend $25 million on ads just in the month of May. The first salvo is a strictly positive ad, touting the president’s hard work to dig the country out of the recession he inherited.

Meanwhile Americans For Prosperity, the conservative Super PAC, has unleashed its own anti-Obama ads, complete with allegations that American tax dollars meant for green job stimulus have been spent overseas.

Continue reading