Anxiety About Coronavirus Is Widespread in L.A. County Roughly 4 in 5 residents in new UCLA Luskin survey express deep concern about the health and economic impacts of COVID-19

By Les Dunseith

An overwhelming percentage (78%) of Los Angeles County residents say they are concerned that they or a member of their family will contract the novel coronavirus, according to a survey conducted between March 18 and 26 and released today by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

A solid majority (61%) of respondents expressed confidence in the response by local officials to the pandemic, but only 39% had similar confidence in the federal response.

“There are two clear takeaways,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, which conducted the survey as part of an annual project known as the Quality of Life Index, or QLI. “The anxiety levels over contracting the virus and its economic impacts are overwhelming. And it’s a vote of confidence in the local public health agencies, while a vote of no confidence in the federal response.”

The results are based on interviews conducted with about 1,500  county residents during a period that happened to coincide with the implementation of stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles.

The QLI, which is a joint project of the UCLA Luskin Los Angeles Initiative and The California Endowment, is in its fifth year. Researchers poll a cross-section of Los Angeles County residents each year to understand the public’s perception of the quality of their own lives. Full results will be released April 23 as part of a UCLA event known as the Luskin Summit, which will be held virtually this year because of the ongoing health crisis. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6%.

Respondents indicated that they were very concerned (49%), somewhat concerned (29%), not too concerned (13%) or not concerned at all (7%) that they or a member of their family would contract the novel coronavirus. Women over the age of 50 expressed the greatest concern (62% were very concerned).

When asked whether the health crisis had or will have a negative economic impact on themselves personally, more than four out of five respondents (83%) said they were concerned, with 56% saying very concerned and 27% saying somewhat concerned. Again, women expressed the most concern, although in this case it was slightly higher among women aged 18 to 49 (61%) than among women aged 50 to 64 (60%).

Two questions were asked about the response of public health and government officials to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the results were almost mirror opposites. When asked if they were confident in the response of officials in Los Angeles County, 61% of respondents said yes and 31% said no, but just 39% said yes and 55% said no when asked if they were confident in the response of officials in the federal government. These results were generally consistent among demographic and geographic groups.

“In virtually no major demographic group did we find less than a majority expressing confidence in local officials,” Yaroslavsky said.

Some of the highest marks for local officials came from those aged 50 to 74 (69%), men aged 50 to 64 (72%) and women 65 and older (70%), as well as Latinos over age 50 (70%). Residents in every L.A. County supervisorial district expressed at least 59% confidence as a whole.

Hardly any major demographic group expressed majority confidence in the federal response. The lowest confidence levels came from 18-to-39-year-olds (33%), African Americans (32%), women aged 18 to 49 (31%), those with annual incomes above $120,000 (30%), whites aged 18 to 49 (23%) and residents of the 3rd Supervisorial District (28%), which encompasses Westside communities such as Santa Monica and Malibu, plus the north and western sections of the San Fernando Valley.

The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

Yaroslavsky Breaks Down Super Tuesday Wins and Losses

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, joined KCAL9 News as nationwide returns from Super Tuesday came in. The evening’s big surprise was the campaign comeback of former Vice President Joe Biden, said Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant and political analyst. “This sudden change, this reversal of fortune at the presidential candidate level, is unprecedented,” he said, especially since the Biden campaign has been relatively low-budget. “As a politician, I used to dream of being able to win elections without spending a nickel. Biden did it nationally,” he said. But he cautioned, “Let’s not write off Bernie Sanders and consign him to the graveyard. Things, as we’ve seen in the last 72 hours, can change very quickly.” Yaroslavsky also said former President Barack Obama is wise to hold off on endorsing a candidate, as he may need to unite the Democratic Party in the event of a brokered convention. And he said Los Angeles County must overcome problems with its new balloting procedures before November. Otherwise, he said, “Democracy loses, because if people have to stand in line for two, three hours, it’s going to discourage people.”


 

Yaroslavsky on the Last Debate Before Super Tuesday

With Super Tuesday a week away, Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, weighed in on the latest Democratic candidates’ debate in an in-studio appearance on KCAL9 News. “They came after Bernie tonight. He is the front-runner so they tried to knock him down a peg. I don’t think they drew much blood,” he said of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s debate performance was strong ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary, Yaroslavsky said. “If he wins, he’s got a second wind. If he doesn’t, he’s got some decisions to make,” he said. The debate, which included exchanges on coronavirus and Fidel Castro’s Cuba, often grew raucous as candidates tried to gain advantage. Yaroslavsky said the Democrats would be wiser to direct their attacks on the incumbent president. “Democrats have a way, after the nominating process is over, of coming together, but for tonight it didn’t look good for the Democrats,” he said.


 

Yaroslavsky on Building L.A.’s Future With Lessons From Its Past


Yaroslavsky on the Tight Race for the Democratic Nomination

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCAL9 News following the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Yaroslavsky observed that the fireworks that some had expected between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did not materialize. “Neither one of them had an interest in beating up on the other,” he said, noting that some candidates who had previously launched personal attacks are no longer on the debate stage. The six who did qualify — former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, Sanders and Warren — debated foreign policy, healthcare and trade. Yaroslavsky predicted that no clear winner will emerge from the Iowa caucuses, less than three weeks away, or perhaps even from subsequent voting in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. “It’s a very close race,” he said.


 

Yaroslavsky on Democrats’ L.A. Debate

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, assessed the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Los Angeles in an in-studio appearance on KCAL9 News. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had “more of an opportunity to display her capabilities on the stage, and I thought she did extremely well,” Yaroslavsky said. “She had the most to gain by having this kind of a night.” Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held his own in a sparring match with Sen. Elizabeth Warren over campaign contributions from wealthy donors. And “Andrew Yang is still somebody who’s connecting with people, though it’s not showing up in the polls,” Yaroslavsky said. He also said former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading national polls but lagging in Iowa, had a strong showing. “What he needed tonight was to stop the erosion and create a sense of ascendancy, and I think he may have started that process tonight,” Yaroslavsky said.


 

Yaroslavsky Offers Insights on Democratic Debate

KCAL9 News spoke with Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, following the fifth debate of Democratic presidential candidates. Yaroslavsky commented on the prominence of women’s issues during the forum, noting that in addition to the four female candidates on stage, all four moderators were women. “It was a change. You don’t see that many questions and answers on women’s issues in a typical debate,” he said. “In a Democratic primary, women have a disproportionately high percentage of the vote,” Yaroslavsky said. “African American women are a significant percentage of the African American vote and of the Democratic primary vote. So it was both a meritorious set of questions and also a politically significant set of questions.” Yaroslavsky’s tenure as a public official and civic leader in Southern California spans more than four decades.


 

Making the Most of the Student-Mentor Connection Annual Senior Fellows Leadership breakfast puts spotlight on a successful partnership

By Mary Braswell

A student and mentor brought together by UCLA Luskin’s Senior Fellows Leadership Program shared stories of their rewarding yearlong partnership at an Oct. 24 breakfast launching the initiative’s 23rd year.

The gathering at the UCLA Faculty Center gave this year’s class of 45 Senior Fellows a chance to meet the graduate students they were matched with and hear insights from Tom Epstein, president of the California Community Colleges board of governors, and Irma Castañeda, a second-year master of public policy student.

“The best thing about being a fellow here is you get to work with so many smart, conscientious and diverse students,” said Epstein, a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow since 2015.

Castañeda said she applied for the program last year to broaden her understanding of career options in the public policy field.  She accomplished that and much more, she said.

“I’m a first-generation college student and a first-generation professional, and I was navigating this space as a new student,” she said. By the end of the year, Epstein had helped her to build a professional network in Los Angeles and Sacramento and land a summer internship tailored to her interests in higher education.

At their monthly check-ins, Epstein and Castañeda talked about classes, career goals, internships and job prospects. Epstein also provided email introductions to key figures in his field and invited Castañeda to a meeting and dinner of California Community Colleges governors.

The life of a graduate student can be filled with coursework, campus activities and outside jobs, Castañeda said, but “it’s really important to prioritize this experience.” The Senior Fellows Program offers a rare gift — sustained one-on-one access to a leader in the public, private or nonprofit sector — and students should make the most of it, she said.

She also encouraged her classmates to take full advantage of the resources offered by UCLA Luskin’s Career Services team, led by Executive Director VC Powe.

View more photos from the Senior Fellows breakfast on Flickr.

The first step, Castañeda said, is to ask questions — lots of them.

She learned this during her search for a summer internship that would help her learn more about the community college system. Finding none, she consulted career counselor Donna Lee Oda, who helped her edit her resume, craft a cover letter and pitch herself as a summer intern candidate.

Epstein connected her with the deputy chancellor of California Community Colleges, who created a research internship just for Castañeda. She spent the summer conducting analysis for the governmental relations division and presenting her findings at a legislative briefing at the state Capitol.

“It was something that I wouldn’t have imagined, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity if I hadn’t asked,” she said.

Epstein said he is grateful for the chance to serve as a Senior Fellow, recalling that an internship while he was at UCLA Law launched a rewarding career. He thanked his own mentor, Zev Yaroslavsky — then a young city councilman and now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin — who was present at the breakfast.

Epstein’s career journey took him through politics, healthcare, insurance, media and the environment, in addition to higher education. He has worked in the White House, state government and the private and nonprofit sectors.

Students mentored by Epstein through the Senior Fellows program are now working at the California Endowment, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the California Department of Finance, Green Dot Schools and L.A. Care. One is a doctor with Kaiser Permanente and another is a teaching assistant at UCLA, he said.

Epstein addressed the public policy, social welfare and urban planning students gathered at the breakfast. “I’m grateful for your commitment to public service,” he said, “because our country needs you.”

This year, 37 returning Senior Fellows were joined by eight new mentors:

Warren T. Allen MPP ’03, founding member and attorney with WTAII PLLC

Nahtahna Cabanes MSW ’13, vice president of strategic partnerships with L.A. Works

Ken Chawkins BA ’85, business policy manager with the Southern California Gas Company

Elizabeth Forer CEO, Venice Family Clinic

Louise McCarthy MPP ’04, president and CEO at Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez MSW ’99, BA ’97, executive vice president of Community Coalition

Sarah Smith, senior director of education for the International Rescue Committee

Nancy Sutley, chief development officer with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Yaroslavsky on Future of Single-Home Neighborhoods

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured on an episode of 89.3 KPCC’s “AirTalk” about the future of California housing policy. The state’s affordable housing crisis has increased the pressure for bills like SB50, which would increase the density of housing in single-family neighborhoods close to transit lines. The bill was shelved in the last legislative session, but a second iteration is returning with provisions that Yaroslavsky called “very minimal and cosmetic.” The need for affordable housing is dire, he said, but “there hasn’t been a thorough discussion about what the SB50 bill does.” According to Yaroslavsky, “New construction in California is not going to produce affordable housing — it produces high-end housing, market-rate housing.” He criticized SB50 for failing to “demand anything in return from the landowners” and suggested setting aside 40 to 50 percent of new units for affordable housing. “If you rezone all the single-family homes in California, you’re not creating more affordable housing but you are destroying communities,” Yaroslavsky said.


Mini-Mall Model Troublesome, Yaroslavsky Says

Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to Curbed LA about the development of mini-malls in Southern California. Yaroslasvky said that mini-malls were popular with the public but not so popular from a planning standpoint. “I viewed the new mini-mall model as troublesome,” he said, noting that mini-malls broke up the pedestrian character of streets by providing parking in front of the businesses. Yaroslavsky said Proposition U, a 1986 initiative he sponsored when he served on the Los Angeles City Council, limited commercial development but was not in response to the reemergence of mini-malls. Rather, it was in response to massive buildings. “People were fed up with the changing scale of new buildings in commercial zones adjacent to residential neighborhoods,” he said.