Californians Think Half of Every Dollar the State Government Spends Is Wasted


The California state budget calls for spending $131 billion dollars this fiscal year. We asked 696 Californians in the latest Reason-Rupe poll for every dollar the California state government spends, about how many cents do they think are wasted. The average respondent said about half: the mean was 49 cents and the median 50 cents.

Different demographic and political groups perceive different levels of wasteful spending; nevertheless, nearly all groups reported an average somewhere between $0.39-$0.57 cents for every dollar the state government spends.

For Californians who think the state is on the right track and approve of Gov. Jerry Brown's job performance, they think the state wastes 41 percent and 39 percent respectively of what it spends. In contrast, among those who think the state is on the wrong track and disapprove of the Governor's job performance, they think about 53 percent and 56 percent respectively of government spending is wasted.

Not surprisingly, with a heavily Democratic state legislature (64 percent Democratic), Republicans think about 57% of California state spending is wasted. Democrats think the state wastes 43 cents on the dollar; although this is significantly lower than Republicans' perception, 43 percent is still a substantial share of spending. Independents represent the state's average; they think 49 cents per dollar are wasted.

Women think over half of California state spending is wasted; men think a little less than half is wasted. Private sector workers think more government spending is wasted than government employees, 46 cents to 40 cents per dollar.

Increased levels of education are correlated with less perceived government waste. Californians with high school diplomas think 56 percent of spending is wasted. Strikingly fewer, post-graduates think 39 cents per dollar are wasted.

California telephone poll conducted October 11th-15th on both landline and cell phones, 696 adults, margin of error +/- 3.8%. The sample also includes 508 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 5.1%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full methodology can be found here. Full poll results found here.