Chapman University faculty today released a survey of Orange County’s social and political attitudes. The results show Orange County residents’ views on a host of issues, including housing, homelessness, gun control and President Trump.

OC No Longer “Red” County

The results show that the historically right-leaning, largely conservative county has fundamentally shifted to more moderate-left positions. Overall, there is pessimism about the direction Orange County is headed, but optimism about people’s individual financial conditions.

“The implications for this is that there will be the real possibility of very competitive congressional elections in November, possibly contributing to a “blue wave,” said Fred Smoller, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at Chapman University, and lead researcher on the survey.

By huge percentages, respondents (18 years and older OC residents) support gun control, environmental protection, DACA, a legal path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, rent control, and land-use planning. They also are troubled by the growing gap between rich and poor, and do not think government is doing enough to address the needs of the poor and homeless. Residents see diversity as a source of strength and believe climate change is a serious problem, and is caused by human activity.

OC residents are distrustful of Washington, feel the country is going in the wrong direction, and favor smaller government, but residents also see government action as a legitimate way to solve problems. A slight plurality would like to see the Democrats in control of the House, but most think it doesn’t matter which party runs Congress. Nearly two-thirds disapprove of the job the president is doing. Presidential approval in OC has virtually flipped since 2004. That year, the Public Policy Institute of California found that 57% of OC residents approved of the job George W. Bush was doing as president.


Orange County Housing and Homelessness a big issue

According to the survey, Orange County residents really like OC and most do not plan to leave despite the high cost of housing. Most are satisfied with their present housing arrangement. By an overwhelming margin, people want to own their homes, and prefer single-family detached homes. About half the respondents prefer larger homes with big yards that are car dependent and about half prefer smaller homes with smaller yards in walkable cities. And, high-rise living is very unpopular.

The high price of housing is seen as a serious problem. Half said they didn’t think their children could afford a home in Orange County.

“The home ownership dream is not dead, but likely deferred,” said Dr. Smoller.

Homelessness is a great concern–much greater than the need for affordable housing–and people are willing to tax themselves to resolve it. A majority of county residents state that they are in favor of a 0.25 percent tax to address homelessness.

When asked about master planning, respondents say they want controlled growth. This implies growth controlled by the government; yet at the same time, the majority of respondents said they want the government to do less.

“What we are seeing is that Orange County residents want more government in areas they traditionally didn’t; while simultaneously disapproving of both the President and Congress,” said Dr. Smoller. “We know who the devil is and the devil is us. We want small government, but also see government action as legitimate way to solve public problems.”

An example to further drive that point home were the questions addressing the county’s famous high housing costs. The majority of people in Orange County agree that home prices are too high, yet a majority also responded that they don’t want more affordable housing built in their neighborhoods.

Dr. Smoller and Michael A. (Mike) Moodian, Ph.D., a Chapman integrated educational studies faculty member who co-directed the survey, presented the survey results at today’s housing conference. “We found Orange County’s support for a hypothetical quarter-cent sales tax to address homelessness, a measure similar to Los Angeles County’s Measure H, noteworthy,” said Moodian. “Housing affordability and homelessness are the two major issues on OC residents’ minds.”

According to Dr. Smoller: “It’s hard to overstate the challenges posed by today’s California housing crisis. The average price of buying a house is now two-and-a-half times the national average, rents are at historic highs, and the state’s home-ownership rate is the lowest it’s been since the Second World War”

Further, the housing crisis impacts virtually every institution in the state. Housing shortages and the resulting high prices have become a huge drag on the state’s businesses and economy. As people commute further to find affordable housing, their health worsens, traffic thickens and children have less time with their families.

Evictions are up, and, in almost every major city of the state, the homeless are more visible. And, more broadly, the survey also revealed the failure of markets, governments and communities to address the crisis exposed structural problems with planning, taxation, environmental regulation and all levels of government, especially the local.


Survey Methodology

The telephone survey was conducted February 6 through March 4, 2018. There were 706 participants in the survey, all adult (18 and over) residents of Orange County. The telephone survey contained cell 72 percent (502) phone and landline 28 percent (198), male: 51 female: 49. Eighty-nine percent of respondents were registered to vote. Forty-one percent of the respondents said they were closer to the Republican Party; 38 percent said they felt closer to the Democratic Party, and 22 percent said neither party. The survey’s margin of error was 3.7 percent.


The survey results can be found here.


The survey results were presented at a conference at Chapman University, called Will California Ever Figure Out How to House Itself? Featuring policy makers, homeless advocates and academics discussing the future of the state. Learn more about the conference. 


About Chapman University

As an academically distinguished center of learning, Chapman University attracts extraordinary students and faculty from around the globe. Its ten schools and colleges foster a vibrant intellectual community, and provide extensive opportunities for students to learn, grow and discover alongside remarkable faculty. The University is home to some 8,000 students pursuing bachelor, master and doctoral degrees, and is alma mater to more than 40,000 alumni found throughout the United States and the world. Now celebrating its 157th year, Chapman is known for its distinguishing strengths in leadership and civic engagement, in the arts and entertainment disciplines, and in specialized sectors of technology and science. The University is comprised of its main campus in Orange, California, and the Rinker Health Science campus for graduate health science programs in Irvine, California. Visit us at


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