The San Diego County
eye on the region
The San Diego County Issues Barometer
This research effort shines a bright spotlight on issues facing San Diegans. By providing regular access to accurate data on the things that matter to our community, we believe we’ll all benefit by understanding what’s going on around us. For this reason, we oversample ethnic communities to clearly hear their voices.
Findings are based on the results of our scientific polls, conducted in English and Spanish, of 500 San Diego County adult residents. Interviews are conducted by professionals at our El Paso, TX, facility, and via the web. The maximum margin of sampling error is +/- 4.4%.
Our region is experiencing a housing affordability crisis. Throughout 2022 and into 2023 the San Diego County Issues Barometer has consistently pegged affordable housing as the second most important issue behind homelessness. The National Association of Home Builders rates San Diego as the nation’s third least affordable housing market and San Diegans realize that. As the region becomes less affordable and Californians continue to flee the state searching for lower housing costs (among other things), how do San Diegans assess housing policies?
“Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin’s grim quote hits home for most Americans every April 15. The IRS pushed back this year’s filing deadline, but how much one pays – or “should” pay – is hotly debated among both lawmakers and taxpayers. What San Diegans think about income taxes depends on who you ask and who we’re talking about, but state taxes are considered more burdensome than federal taxes and the property tax is worst of all. Will taxing the uber-wealthy’s net worth be the solution?
San Diego County covers more than 4,200 square miles and driving a car is considered a necessity. Our June 22 Barometer shows 95% drive a car or motorcycle. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is responsible for transportation planning, so we measure satisfaction with it and its preferred funding streams for a $165 billion new public transportation network. San Diegans’ views on their county’s direction remain very mixed and top concerns remain stubbornly unchanged. Homelessness dominates the issues landscape, with 30% focused on it.
Food insecurity is a serious national issue. Some estimates place the number of Californians facing food insecurity at around 8 million. It’s a similar story in San Diego County, and food insecurity remains elevated compared to pre-pandemic times. Healthy food is actually easy to find in San Diego, but food deserts are a concern and food insecurity is a serious regional issue. More black San Diegans desire government programs, but all San Diegans would generally pitch in to help.
Leaving San Diego
The weather attracts people to San Diego, but the cost-of-living makes them leave. Eight percent of San Diegans are already in process of exiting the county (~200,000). According to the U.S. Census, the population of San Diego County has decreased by 11,183 residents since July 2020, which marks the first contraction in over a decade. This population decline is expected to result in demographic shifts, political ramifications, slowing economic growth & struggles with tax revenue.
Cost of Living
San Diego is currently the 17th (out of a list of 170 cities) most expensive city in the world to live in according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2022 Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) survey. And the cost of living in America’s Finest City is rising shockingly fast: it climbed 33 slots on the list in the past year after ranking 50th in 2021. We also examine how the mood has become more unsettled and how homelessness has come to dominate the county’s collective consciousness.
San Ysidro is one of the world’s busiest land-border crossings. Before the pandemic, more than 100,000 people crossed the San Diego-Tijuana border every day, linking the two metropolises in a way unlike other major cities. Boosters have heralded the area a “mega-region,” although safety concerns seem endemic. Sewage from Tijuana entering the Pacific Ocean is another challenge. An American proposal to treat the water in Mexico is being considered.
Crime has escalated since the start of the pandemic. In San Diego County, homicide, rape, and aggravated assault increased 3%, 11% and 12%, respectively, in 2021 according to an April report released by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). Property crimes shot up by 9% from the previous year.
Housing is more expensive in San Diego than almost all other locales in the nation. How much of a problem is paying the rent or mortgage? Where will home prices and rents go? Is more rent control the answer? We also document how the civic mood has brightened a bit and how homelessness and housing are top-of-mind issues.
California is “home” to more than 160,000 homeless individuals — the nation’s highest population of unhoused residents — and one-fifth of the entire U.S. homeless population. About 8,400 homeless folks live in San Diego County, a 10% increase since January 2020.
Accelerating overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a growing national conversation on fentanyl – a synthetic opioid designed to treat severe pain – and its misuse. San Diego is in the thick of this epidemic. The county recorded more than 800 fatal fentanyl overdoses last year, and the drug is now the number one killer of 18- to 45-year-olds locally and nationally.
San Diegans heavily depend on their cars, as 94% drive one, but just 9% drive a hybrid and only 4% are fully electric. This makes residents vulnerable to rising pump prices. How much pain does that cause them and who do they blame? Also, San Diego County’s mood flirts with gloom despite sunny summer days on the horizon. The now familiar topics of homelessness and housing affordability top the list of most important issues…