New Poll: Bay Area residents say that racial diversity makes the region a great place to live

New Poll: Bay Area residents say that racial diversity makes the region a great place to live

Contact: Eric Brown, San Francisco Foundation
ebrown[at]sff.org

Residents concerned region is on the wrong track, want to ensure affordable housing, inclusive communities.

San Francisco, CA – Amid overwhelming concerns about affordable housing, a new five-county survey commissioned by the San Francisco Foundation’s Bay Area Leads Fund reveals that most Bay Area residents agree that having people from different races and income levels is part of what makes the Bay Area a great place to live, and nearly two-thirds said that protecting the racial and cultural diversity of our neighborhoods and local communities should be a priority.

While more than half of respondents shared a concern that the region is on the wrong track, they were also clear that they believe that government and elected officials have a particularly important role to play in addressing the region’s housing challenges. At a time of deep public cynicism about the ability of government to address challenging problems, survey respondents put government officials at the top of the list of individuals or institutions that can have the greatest impact on the major issues facing the Bay Area.

With the overwhelming majority of respondents believing that housing is a “basic human need” and seven in ten saying that they will make housing issues a priority in their voting decisions, the issue may emerge as a major factor in future elections.

“This survey shows us just how worried people are, but it is also a reminder of what everyone wants — an affordable place to call home in a community where they feel they belong,” said San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell. “People see what’s happening around them. They see people being pushed out of their communities and they feel the threat to their own future. Most of all, they want action. They want government and elected officials as well as businesses, landlords, financial institutions, and nonprofits to work together to find a way to address this challenge.”

The survey was released as a host of new efforts have emerged to address the affordable housing challenge in ways that advance racial equity and economic inclusion. Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law one of the nation’s most far-reaching packages of bills designed to prevent homelessness, protect tenants from eviction, and make it possible to create new homes for thousands of Californians. That was made possible by a collaboration of diverse allies, including the San Francisco Foundation, who are working to preserve existing affordable homes, protect the families in them, and produce more housing at all income levels. There has also been a string of announcements by large Bay Area employers that seek to fund additional affordable housing.

While experts and analysts alike have noted that the real test will come when these plans are implemented, the field appears cautiously optimistic that these are promising developments.

“These findings remind us not only who we are but who we want to be,” said Judith Bell, Chief Impact Officer at the San Francisco Foundation. “We know that income inequality and housing inequality are big challenges, and the public clearly wants to make sure that people of different races and incomes can thrive in the Bay Area. There is enormous public will to make this happen and we need to make sure that we harness that support as effectively as possible.”

Highlights from the survey

People are worried about the direction of the Bay Area. Residents are concerned it is going the wrong way and getting worse.

  • A majority of residents in the 5-county Bay Area are now pessimistic about the direction of the region, with 53% reporting they feel the Bay Area is on the wrong track, up from 45% in a similar survey conducted in 2016.
  • The number of residents who reported being unhappy or worried about the future of the Bay Area went up from 57% to 67%, the entire 10% increase falling in the highest level of concern.

Government and elected officials are seen as able to have a positive impact on issues across the board: preserving diversity in neighborhoods, ensuring everyone has safe and affordable housing, and making sure individuals are able to build wealth and financial stability.

  • Government and elected officials are perceived as able to have a positive impact on preserving diversity of Bay Area communities (69% total impact; 38% rated them as able to have a “very positive impact”)
  • Government and elected officials are also seen as able to have a positive impact on making sure everyone has safe and affordable housing, (68%; 35% “very positive impact”)
  • Government, individuals, and the business and tech community are seen as having capacity for positive impact on making sure individuals are able to build wealth and financial stability. (64%; 30% “very positive impact”)
  • Residents see a role for government and elected officials to step up. Nearly two-thirds would prefer for government to be involved in creating opportunities for advancement.

Residents showed a desire for increasing housing affordability, naming housing as a basic human need and stopping discriminatory practices as a very high priority.

  • Affordable housing rose to the top of the list of priority issues (79% rated as a priority) with over half of respondents rating “making housing more affordable” as a very high priority (57%).
  • Strongly enforcing laws that prevent landlords, developers, banks, employers and others from discriminating against people on the basis of their race was also rated as a high priority (75% total priority, 43% as very high priority).
  • An overwhelming number of respondents agreed that housing is a basic human need, (85%) with 62% in strong agreement.

Bay Area residents want to live in neighborhoods with people of different races and cultures and see that as part of what makes the Bay Area a great place.

  • Protecting the racial and cultural diversity of our neighborhoods and local communities. (65% rate as a priority; 33% as a very high priority).
  • Having people from different races and income levels is part of what makes the Bay Area a great place to live. (76% agree).
  • There should be affordable places to live for all people whether white, black, or brown in all parts of the Bay Area. (80% agree)
  • There should be affordable places to live for all people whether white, black, or brown in my neighborhood. (77% agree)
  • Ensuring opportunity for people regardless of race. (74% rate as a priority, 41% as a very high priority).

The web panel survey was conducted by EMC Research from October 15-23, 2019, and included 800 residents in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties.

The survey was funded by the San Francisco Foundation’s Bay Area Leads Fund, a donor supported fund to advance the foundation’s civic leadership activities and strategic initiatives to address the most intractable issues in the region.

Read more highlights here. For complete poll results, contact Eric Brown at ebrown@sff.org.

Click to see the infographic of the results.


About the San Francisco Foundation

The San Francisco Foundation is a grantmaking public charity dedicated to improving life in the five counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it is one of the nation’s largest community foundations. In addition to its work to prevent homelessness and provide affordable homes for all Bay Area residents who need them, the San Francisco Foundation has worked in a variety of other areas – including supporting the Bay Area Equity Atlas – a robust new data and policy tool to help create a more equitable Bay Area; providing emergency protections to advance racial justice or protect immigrant communities through its Rapid Response Fund; and has supported a targeted set of other initiatives focused on racial equity and economic inclusion. Learn more: www.sff.org.

About EMC Research

EMC Research, Inc. is a full-service opinion research and strategic consulting firm serving a broad range of clients, including public and private corporations, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and political campaigns. With offices in Columbus, OH; Irving, TX; Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; and Washington, D.C., EMC Research is a certified women-owned business.

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