2022 CA election: Are San Francisco voters moving to the center? New poll suggests they could be

The poll asked respondents if they feel their political views have become less progressive than before. Roughly half said yes.

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ByLiz Kreutz via KGO logo
Thursday, October 13, 2022
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New poll asked 900 San Francisco voters if they feel their political views have become less progressive than in the past. Roughly half said yes.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Are San Francisco voters moving more towards the center? The results from a new survey from the San Francisco Standard suggest they could be.

The poll -- which surveyed 900 San Francisco voters one month before the midterm election -- found that residents frustrated with homelessness, crime and housing, are increasingly open to supporting more centric policies to try to combat these issues.

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"What we are seeing is a general level of exasperation with the way things are going with the city," Maryann Jones Thompson, the research editor for the San Francisco Standard, told ABC7 News. "And that seems to be translating into a shift in terms of supporting 'law and order' type policies and wanting more law enforcement in general from City Hall."

The poll specifically asked respondents if they feel their political views have become less progressive than in the past. Roughly half said yes.

"It's difficult to say what progressive means to one voter versus another, but we did see some support for hardline policies that have been proposed," Thompson explained. "For example, two-thirds of voters were in support of charging drug dealers with murder if they are dealing fentanyl and the drug users pass away, which is a pretty intense punishment. But I think it's a data point that city leaders shouldn't look away from."

San Francisco Mayor London Breed may realize that. Her rhetoric in recent months, amid and following the District Attorney recall election, has become noticeably tough on crime. She appointed vocal Chesa Boudin critic Brooke Jenkins as interim DA. And Matt Dorsey, a former spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department, as District 6 supervisor.

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Still, Dr. Melissa Michelson, a professor of political science at Menlo College, said it might be a leap to say San Francisco voters are really moving that much to the middle.

"When London Breed said that she was going to crack on the Tenderloin, San Franciscans didn't exactly jump for joy," Michelson said. "So, I don't see that San Franciscans are ready for that kind of 'let's just clean it all up' mentality."

The way Michelson sees it, frustrated San Franciscans are likely conflicted: torn between their core progressive beliefs and wanting a quick fix to some of the problems they see every day walking around the city.

"It's almost like you've got two different parts of your brain fighting against each other," she explained. "You have one part of your brain where you have these overall values, these general ideas of how you see the world, and then this other part of your brain is responding to what you saw that day when you were in the city... and you're like which view of the world is correct? And you're responding in different ways," she said.

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"And so, it's possible that people are moving to the center just based on how they are experiencing the world, but that doesn't necessarily mean that their core values have shifted," she added.

The results from the San Francisco Standard poll also back that up. Thompson says while the survey does show support for more hard-lined policies in terms of dealing with homelessness and crime, that it also shows the compassionate side of San Francisco voters as well.

"The number one thing people are attributing to the homeless problem is a lack of mental illness care and services," Thompson said. "We're also seeing people do want to see more support and ambassadors on the streets, and not only clearing camps and only charging drug dealers with very serious charges."

That said, Thompson continued, "there is a general feeling, more than our last poll, where we heard respondents say it's time for 'some tough love' to deal with some of these problems in front of people's houses."

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