Majority of Californians Support High Speed Rail Project
Great news from the Public Policy Institute of California, which has a new poll out on various political issues in California. The poll shows that a clear majority of Californians continue to support high speed rail:
Today, when read a description of the system and its $68 billion price tag, 53 percent favor it and 42 percent oppose it. Likely voters are less supportive (45% favor, 50% oppose). Majorities in the San Francisco Bay Area (63%), Central Valley (57%), Orange/San Diego (54%), and Los Angeles (52%) are in favor. Inland Empire residents are divided (45% favor, 46% oppose). When opponents of high-speed rail are asked how they would feel if the cost were lower, support rises (69% adults, 60% likely voters). Asked about high-speed rail’s importance, 35 percent of adults and 29 percent of likely voters say it is very important to the future quality of life and state’s economic vitality.
These are very strong numbers for high speed rail. The media may focus on the likely voter number, but even that is just a small swing from the 52% voter support from Proposition 1A in 2008. That’s also due to the lower enthusiasm for voting this year among more progressive Californians.
The key point here is that despite all the criticisms this project has taken from people opposed to passenger rail and their media allies, high speed rail is still popular in California. Let there be no doubt about this. Californians still want this built, even when the supposedly controversial project details are described. Californians still want this project built.
Sacramento politicians need to have this poll burned into their consciousness. What this says is there is no public appetite for undermining or delaying this project. It also means there is no real chance that Democrats would suffer at the polls this November if they continue to support and fund the project – just as they did not pay any political price in November 2012 for their pro-HSR stance.
California legislators should move ahead and get high speed rail built. This poll proves that’s what their constituents want – a high speed rail project that will connect California.
UPDATE: John Burrows makes a good point in the comments – public support for HSR has increased since last year:
In 2013— 48% of all voters favored the project—50% opposed——In 2014—53% of voters in favor—42% opposed (an increase in support of 5 percentage points among all voters)
In 2013—43% of likely voters favored the project—54% opposed——In 2014—45% of likely voters in favor—50% opposed (an increase in support of 2 percentage points, a decrease in opposition of 4 percentage points)
What this tells me is that support for high speed rail in California has increased over the past year, particularly among those less likely to vote. As the economy in California continues to recover, it seems likely that voter support for high speed rail will increase further.