Annual Survey of Los Angeles County Residents Finds Lowest Satisfaction Ever Anger over fast-rising costs and worries about crime and the quality of education are among key factors driving down the latest Quality of Life Index

By Les Dunseith

Los Angeles County residents are not happy.

They don’t like paying more for gasoline, fresh eggs or electricity. They’re worried about their family’s health and their children’s education. They don’t like hearing that homelessness and crime are up, and their confidence in public officials to solve such problems is down. And COVID-19? They just want to be done with it. 

Those are some of the key takeaways from the latest Quality of Life Index, or QLI, a project of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs that measures county residents’ satisfaction levels in nine categories. The overall rating fell sharply, from 58 last year to 53 on a scale from 10 to 100, marking the first time it fell below the survey’s 55-point midpoint since the index launched in 2016. That means a majority of respondents are dissatisfied with the overall quality of their lives.

“For the first time since the inception of this survey, respondents’ ratings dropped in each of the nine categories, and eight of the nine fell to their lowest rating ever,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative, who oversees the index. 

Researchers noted that overall satisfaction had remained relatively stable, between 56 and 59, throughout the survey’s first six years, despite drought, fires and the profound societal changes of the pandemic. But that changed as prices of food, gasoline and public utilities spiked in recent months — a trend that accelerated in the weeks after Russian troops invaded Ukraine in late February.

“What the pandemic couldn’t do over the last two years, inflation and increases in violent and property crime succeeded in doing,” Yaroslavsky said. “It appears that the dam has burst this year.” 

This year’s QLI is based on interviews conducted in English and Spanish with 1,400 county residents over 30 days beginning on March 5. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6%.

Scores declined in all nine of the survey categories, but the issues that were most responsible for the overall decline were cost of living, education and public safety.

“These three issues contributed heavily to the overall drop in our respondents’ satisfaction,” Yaroslavsky said. “Clearly, they are driving the political debate in this year’s city and county elections.”

Among the other results:

  • The largest decline was the cost-of-living score, which dropped to 39 from 45 last year.
  • The public safety score declined to 56 from 60 last year (and 64 in 2020), shaped largely by growing concerns over property crime and violent crime.
  • The score for transportation and traffic fell to 51, from 56 last year.
  • The score for jobs and the economy dropped to 56, from 60 in 2021.
  • The score for education dropped to 46, a new low, from 48 last year.

Most respondents, 69%, said life has been fundamentally changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 28% said that life would return to the way it was before. 

“COVID has taken its toll on our society in profound ways,” Yaroslavsky said. “This finding — that life has been permanently altered — may be the most profound.”

Of survey respondents who are employed, 55% said they always leave home to go to their workplace, 18% always work at home and 25% have a hybrid schedule.

Many respondents said their income declined during the pandemic, with 15% saying it went down a lot and 16% saying it went down a little. Among those whose income declined, 33% said they fell behind on their rent or home mortgage, and 7% said they had to move for financial reasons.

One potentially lasting consequence of the pandemic relates to education. Seventy-one percent of parents of school-age children said they feel their kids have been substantially hurt either academically or socially by having to learn remotely. That figure was only slightly lower than it was in the 2021 survey, even though most students had returned to in-person instruction by the time the 2022 study was conducted. The parents who were most concerned were those who leave home to work (79%) and those with incomes under $60,000 (76%).

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The survey also examined approval ratings for local elected officials. Mayor Eric Garcetti was viewed favorably by 45% of respondents, down from 62% in 2020.  

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva received mixed ratings: 37% very or somewhat favorable and 33% very or somewhat unfavorable, with 30% having no opinion or being unfamiliar with Villanueva. Meanwhile, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s perception declined markedly from 2021. He was viewed very or somewhat favorably by 22% of respondents this year, down from 31% in 2021; 44% viewed Gascón very or somewhat unfavorably in the latest survey.

The Quality of Life Index is funded by Meyer and Renee Luskin through the Los Angeles Initiative. The report was released as part of the closing event in this year’s UCLA’s Luskin Summit, held April 22 at the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA. Phillip Palmer of ABC7 in Los Angeles moderated a discussion with Yaroslavsky, followed by a Q&A in which former California governors Gray Davis and Pete Wilson discussed the “State of California” with Jim Newton, editor in chief of UCLA Blueprint magazine.

The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm FM3 Research.

View the full report and other information about this year’s study, plus previous Quality of Life Indexes, on the website of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.

Watch a recording of the session on Vimeo.

See additional photos from both April 22 sessions on Flickr:

Luskin Summit 2022 Closing Sessions

Yaroslavsky on Shifts in the L.A. Mayor’s Race

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to CBSLA News about a new poll showing Rick Caruso and Karen Bass leading the pack in the contest to become Los Angeles’ next mayor. After an early media blitz, Caruso’s poll numbers have tripled, with 24% of respondents expressing their support, just ahead of Bass’ 23%. Yaroslavsky said the trajectory of the race will shift as other candidates step up their marketing campaigns. “Karen Bass hasn’t been on television at all. Kevin de León can’t be discounted, hasn’t been on television at all. … So, it will change, I’m sure, in the weeks ahead,” he said. The race also stands to tighten as undecided voters make their choices as the June 7 primary nears, he said. “Most people don’t know all that they want to know about the candidates. Forty percent don’t know enough to make a decision at this point or they are withholding their judgment until they hear more.” 

Luskin Housing Scholars Weigh In on California’s Crisis

A UCLA Newsroom article on how to tackle California’s affordable housing crisis cited several scholars from UCLA Luskin. Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen sees the housing crisis as a combination of “unaffordability, instability and inability to house” and has urged the state to “use many levers to push cities to allow more new housing.” Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky has cautioned against changes that fundamentally undermine the character of neighborhoods. He suggested increasing zoning capacity but allowing the city to decide where it should take place. “You don’t need to destroy communities,” Yaroslavsky said. Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Michael Lens highlighted the urgent need for more money for permanent supportive housing. The article was written by Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, who concluded that the competing arguments “reflect and shape California’s ongoing and urgent search for ways to adequately house every resident of the state.” 


Yaroslavsky Cautions Against Splintering Electorate

Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky was featured in the Orange County Register discussing the lengthy requirements for political parties to qualify for the California ballot. Only 19 parties have been on the ballot in the 112 years since California started the nomination process, and California state laws make it difficult for new parties to break through. “I don’t think it should be impossible, but it also should not be so easy that you could have 30 parties on a ballot,” Yaroslavsky said. “I don’t think most voters like to throw away their vote to very minor parties.” Yaroslavsky expressed concern that lowering the bar for new parties to get on the ballot can further complicate and splinter the electorate. If a party can’t even drum up enough support to get on the ballot, he asked, what kind of impact could it actually make?


Yaroslavsky on Newsom’s Message to California

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to CBS2 News ahead of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2022 State of the State address. Californians are concerned about pressing issues including homelessness, public safety and criminal justice reform, Yaroslavsky said. “The average person does not see the progress that’s been made, and I think that’s what the governor has to address,” he said. On the state’s response to COVID-19, “There’s a lot that went right with it just as there was a lot that went wrong with it. He ought to thank the people of California for what they’ve done to put this, so far, in the rear-view mirror.” Newsom survived a recall attempt last year and is running for re-election. Yarsoslavsky commented, “Now people are asking the question, ‘What are you going to do going forward? What’s your plan? You’re asking us to re-up you for another four-year contract. What are you promising and what can you deliver?’ ”


 

Yaroslavsky on West Hollywood’s Ex-Soviet Immigrants

A CBS2 News report on West Hollywood residents’ reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine featured Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. In the 1970s, West Hollywood offered a fresh start for Jews fleeing religious oppression in the former Soviet Union after World War II. Now, the city claims more Russian speakers than any U.S. city outside of New York, the report noted. “West Hollywood became a magnet for those fleeing the Soviet Union,” said Yaroslavsky, whose parents emigrated from Ukraine earlier in the 20th century. “You had the very liberal, progressive gay and lesbian community in West Hollywood and then you had the Russian community. But over time, they became partners, and it’s really a beautiful history they have in West Hollywood.”


 

Yaroslavsky on Caruso’s Campaign for L.A. Mayor

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to media outlets including the Los Angeles Times and Financial Times about billionaire developer Rick Caruso’s entrance into the L.A. mayor’s race. The L.A. Times piece focused on Caruso’s real estate company, which would be put into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest if he is elected to office. Referring to recent corruption scandals involving City Hall and local developers, Yaroslavsky said voters are keenly aware of the breach of trust among city leadership. He added, however, that homelessness and crime are the biggest issues facing the city right now. “It’s much lower than it was 20 years ago, but crime is more ubiquitous now,” he told the Financial Times. “It’s shown up throughout the city.” Caruso joins several other candidates who are campaigning on public safety, including front-runner Rep. Karen Bass, Yaroslavsky said. 


 

Yaroslavsky on Tipping Point of Homelessness

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to USA Today about the growing issue of homelessness in Los Angeles and the role that it will play in the city’s upcoming mayoral election. The homelessness crisis has grown and is now visible in parks, on sidewalks and at freeway underpasses. Experts estimate that there are at least 40,000 unhoused people in Los Angeles, and a Los Angeles Times poll found that 94% of respondents considered homelessness a serious or very serious problem. “This problem has been around for a long time, [but] we’re past the tipping point now, the political tipping point,” Yaroslavsky said. “This is as potent a political issue as there is in the election coming forward.” The article cited a report from the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy that estimated that 1,500 people without homes died in Los Angeles between March 2020 and July 2021. 


Yaroslavsky, Newton on the L.A. Riots and Police Chief Gates

Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky and Blueprint editor Jim Newton joined the Slate podcast “Slow Burn” to discuss the aftermath of the Rodney King beating in March 1991. A tape of the beating exposed brutality within the Los Angeles Police Department, prompting many to call for Chief Daryl Gates to step down. At the time, the LAPD “saw itself as a paramilitary organization, primarily white and male, and viewed its fundamental charge as maintaining the peace,” Newton said. Yaroslavsky pointed out that the police commission could fire Gates only for a case of moral turpitude. “It was never an issue of whether he would be fired; the issue was whether he could be persuaded to leave,” Yaroslavsky said. The Christopher Commission, launched by former Mayor Tom Bradley and chaired by Warren Christopher, recommended that Gates step down; he did not retire until June 1992.


Yaroslavsky on Risks, Rewards of 2028 Olympics

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about the risks and rewards Los Angeles faces as it prepares to host the 2028 Olympic Games. Yaroslavsky noted that L.A. already has the infrastructure to support the Games, including sports arenas such as SoFi Stadium, which can host opening and closing ceremonies, and new dorms at USC and UCLA that can serve as an Olympic Village. Commenting on the prospect that Los Angeles might still be battling crisis levels of homelessness, Yaroslavsky said, “We can’t wait until 2028 to solve this problem. We’ve got to solve it now.” The primary challenge for local Olympic organizers is to remained disciplined to avoid running a deficit, he said. “Barring any pandemic kind of event, or a worldwide recession which would influence ticket sales and travel, … these Games should make a profit,” which would be reinvested in youth sports and other initiatives that benefit the community, he said.