Since he was elected president, Donald Trump has visited the most populous state in the nation once. He has a special antipathy to California, given that the state backed Hillary Clinton by more than 4.2 million votes, far more than the almost 2.9 million votes by which she won the popular vote. If only California had suddenly ceased to exist in the first week of November 2016, Trump would have won the electoral vote (by a lot) and the popular vote. But California is still there, gloating about its weather, and Trump is still the president who entered office despite the most significant popular-vote deficit in history.
But to hear him tell it on Twitter, California’s slowly coming around. The dark-blue state, he says, has its Democratic governor running scared, worried about immigration, the border and sanctuary cities.
Here’s the thing about this tweet, and I say this knowing that it may be a shock to your system: It’s not correct.
The Public Policy Institute of California polls the state’s residents regularly, including last month. It allows us to see, for example, that just over half of Californians actually approve of the job that Gov. Jerry Brown is doing. That is despite Brown being supported by only 1 in 5 Republicans.
(We’ve included some demographic breakdowns that we will get to a bit later.)
Brown doesn’t have stellar numbers, mind you, but in a partisan moment, they’re not terrible.
These are terrible numbers.
Only 3 in 10 Californians approve of the job Trump is doing, most of them Republicans. While a fifth of Republicans like Brown, only 8 percent of Democrats like Trump.
How unpopular is Trump in California? As rude as it is to say, he’s Congress unpopular.
But that’s somewhat beside the point. Brown is fairly popular and probably not terribly worried about pressure from Trump, much less the less-than-half the state that doesn’t like him. What’s more, the PPIC poll shows that on the other subjects Trump mentioned, most Californians actually oppose his position!
For example, most Californians oppose Trump’s crackdown on immigrants who are in the country illegally. Only white Californians and those who live in the conservative (and heavily agricultural) Central Valley are more likely to support the crackdown than oppose it, though it’s still less than half of those groups.
Over two-thirds of California also opposes building a wall on the border with Mexico. That includes more than a quarter of Republicans and nearly two-thirds of those in San Diego and Orange County — the former of which sits adjacent to the border.
PPIC also asked about sanctuary-city policies, though not by name. “Do you favor or oppose the California state and local governments making their own policies and taking actions, separate from the federal government, to protect the legal rights of undocumented immigrants in California?” the poll asked, getting at the key issue. And most Californians agree with the idea.
Trump has consistently tried to link immigration and “sanctuary city” policies to crime despite the lack of evidence for any such link. (Sanctuary-city policies, in part, aim to encourage immigrants to help fight crime by being willing to come forward to law enforcement with information about criminal behavior.) The New York Times had a thorough assessment of how there is no link between immigration and criminal activity, but it’s worth highlighting one place where Trump’s rhetoric consistently falls short: trying to link immigration to drug activity.
Consider opioids, a legitimate scourge in many parts of the country that has led to such a significant spike in overdose deaths that the 2016 total surpassed even the number of deaths in car crashes in 1972, the peak year for such fatalities.
But there’s no link between the opioid death rate in a state and how dense the immigrant population there is. The most opioid deaths per 10,000 people in 2016 was in West Virginia, which has a very low density of noncitizen immigrants. One of the states with the lowest relative number of opioid deaths was California — which has a large density of immigrants.
Four of the top five places for opioid deaths — West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — all have immigrant population densities below the median. Only D.C. is an exception. Of the top 10 states for opioid deaths, half have immigrant population densities above the median and half below.
California isn’t a good example if you’re trying to find supporters of Trump’s policies, which, well, 2016 should have made clear. There are certainly pockets of the state that 1) love Trump and 2) support his policies — pockets that would love a “Revolution” in state leadership to throw Brown out of office (that is, if he weren’t already term-limited out). But it’s a minority of the state.
Again, Trump may wish that the majority of Californians who opposed him two years ago and oppose him now would simply up and move to Canada, but until that happens, he has got a lot of ground to make up before his tweeted analysis is correct. As it turns out, people who live with the policies he opposes don’t find them as harmful as he does.