California Public Officials Survey

The California Public Officials Survey was a web-based survey designed to explore the links between values, institutional capacity, and decision-making by public officials in California. The results of the survey have implications for effective policymaking, service delivery, and public accountability.

The faculty and staff of the Bedrosian Center developed the survey with the goal of providing useful data on public officials and their attitudes toward key policy issues in California. The survey concluded in September of 2011, with a total of 462 locally elected city council members, mayors, and county supervisors having responded to the survey.

Results

With their responses, these public officials provided key insight into the issues facing local and regional governments across California. Economic issues were reported as a main area of concern by an overwhelming majority of the public officials. Slightly more than 90 percent of respondents indicated that either jobs and the economy, or the state budget deficit and taxes as the most important issue facing their city or county.

When asked which single area of government service they would most support cutting if service reductions became necessary, the services most mentioned were Arts and Culture (28%), Parks and Recreation (16%) and Housing and Community Development (15%)

In terms of local government accountability, 78 percent of the public officials surveyed indicated that they would support establishing stricter public disclosure requirements for the salaries of local elected officials. However, they seemed weary of state-level oversight, with only 13 percent indicating that they believed increasing state-level oversight would lead to more responsible local government. About two-thirds (65%) indicated that they would support eliminating term limits for elected officials.

The respondents have an average of 8 years of experience serving in their current elected position, with some having served as long as 47 years. They come from cities large and small, some representing cities with populations of less than 1,000 residents and some public officials representing cities with more than 9 million residents.