By Kathy Chouteau
All indications are that Bay Area residents are feeling dissatisfied about their overall quality of life.
The recently released Silicon Valley Poll by Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the Bay Area News Group has found that approximately three out of four residents think their quality of life has declined over the last five years. The overriding concern spans all age, income and education levels according to Joint Venture Silicon Valley.
The poll, which surveyed 1,628 registered voters throughout the five primary Bay Area counties, revealed that people are concerned about crime, pessimistic about the regional economy and are not ready to relinquish working from home. Extreme housing costs and homelessness are viewed as the region’s most serious problems.
While the poll’s findings point to people feeling unenthused about the Bay Area’s economy—with merely 38 percent indicating economic conditions are good or excellent—half of those responding actually said their personal finances are in good or excellent shape.
“With the pandemic on its heels and the economy coming around, you might have thought we would be in a better mood,” Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture and president of the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, said in a statement. “But people are grumpy. They see that housing is out of reach, they see rising homelessness, and a runaway cost of living. They see gaping inequalities. Add to this all our existential woes about climate, and it’s no wonder we’re surly.
- 64 percent of residents say the region is on the wrong track, a ten-point jump over the previous year. This pessimism is shared across gender, ages, races and ethnicities.
- More than half of respondents (56 percent) say they are likely to leave the region “in the next few years,” a number holding firm from last year.
- Extreme housing costs and homelessness are overwhelmingly seen as the region’s most serious problems (with nine of out ten residents rating these issues “extremely serious” or “very serious”).
- Black or African American and Latino/a/x respondents are the most alarmed by high housing costs (82 percent label it “extremely serious,” compared to 76 percent of AAPI and 72 percent of White residents).
- A nine-point spread indicates men and women experience the Silicon Valley economy differently (40 percent of men view it favorably, compared to 31 percent of women). Those views are likely driven by a significant income gap between genders also revealed by the survey: a greater share of working-age men (53 percent) than women (39 percent) report annual incomes at or above $100,000.
- Republicans and Democrats see the region differently. 62 percent of Republicans say the quality of life here has grown “much worse,” but only 23 percent of Democrats agree.
- Nearly eight out of ten Silicon Valley residents see racism as a significant problem, but the extremity of the response varies by race. 18 percent of White respondents view racism as “extremely serious” compared to 39 percent of Black, 30 percent of Hispanic or Latino/a/x and 29 percent of AAPI respondents.
- Though considerable majorities see high housing costs as an “extremely serious” problem, there is little consensus around solutions. There is no majority support for building more single-family housing and only 39 percent would support additional units on single-family lots.
- What support there is for housing drops precipitously when any kind of construction is proposed within a half-mile of home, but particularly for low-income housing (a 14-point drop) and housing for the homeless (a 17-point drop).
- Remote work—at least part of the time—is becoming a defining feature of the Silicon Valley labor market, with 48 percent of the workforce participating. 75 percent of remote workers say they will continue some (41 percent) or all (35 percent) of the time.
- Despite concern for the direction Silicon Valley is taking, two-thirds of respondents express a sense of belonging. This is felt more intensely by full-time students (83 percent) and those identifying as LGBTQ+ (82 percent). Black (46 percent) and Latino/a/x (45 percent) residents report a “very strong” sense of belonging, compared to 38 percent of White and 30 percent of AAPI residents