clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Poll: Bay Area called ‘best place on Earth,’ but respondents still want to leave

New, 4 comments

Many people also think Bay Area is “on the wrong track”

Aerial view of rooftops in northeaster San Francisco. Photo via Shutterstock

Poll after poll find Bay Area residents anxious about housing, the cost of living, and the homeless crisis—and often suggest that those surveyed may not be long for the region.

The latest annual poll by the Bay Area Council (BAC), a business-sponsored public policy advocacy group, confirmed all of these trends yet again, but also found that most residents still consider the Bay Area a great place to live—in fact, respondents qualify the Bay Area as the “best place on Earth,” warts and all.

BAC conducted the survey of 1,000 registered voters in all nine Bay Area counties via email in March. Most respondents were from Alameda or Santa Clara counties—22 percent for each—with 12 percent of those polled hailing from San Francisco.

Many of the results are comparable to those found in similar surveys in recent years:

  • Asked whether or not “things in the Bay Area are going in the right direction,” 57 percent of those polled said they believe the region is “on the wrong track.” This is up two percent from the 2018 poll. It’s also an inversion of the response from five years ago when 57 percent believed the Bay Area was going in the right direction.
  • Asked about the number-one problem in the Bay Area, 43 percent said housing, up just one percent from last year but up 15 percent compared to 2017. Traffic and congestion came in second place with 21 percent. Homelessness was the third most common response and the biggest year-over-year gain with 20 percent, up from 14 last year.
  • Only three percent of those polled said that the Bay Area was an affordable place to live. Ninety-six percent said otherwise.
  • Echoing sentiments from similar polls, 49 percent of those surveyed said they are “likely” to relocate within a few years, up from 46 percent in 2018. Only 40 percent said they’re likely to stay.
  • Despite this, asked whether they agree with the statement, “Even with its challenges, the Bay Area is still the best place on Earth to live,” 57 percent agreed, versus 39 percent not in accord. Note that this is the first year this question was asked.
  • Of those polled, 74 percent called the Bay Area a good place to live. A smaller majority—55 percent—called it a good place to raise a family.

A plurality of those polled—28 percent—said they make more than $150,000 per year; five years ago it was 17 percent. The number of respondents making less than $100,000 annually is down to 38 percent in 2019, versus 56 percent five years ago.

(The number of voters who prefer not to disclose their income is also up, from 10 to 18 percent since 2015.)

A majority of those polled—75 percent—have lived in the Bay Area for more than ten years, down a bit from 78 percent in 2015.

In March, a Bay Area News Group poll of 1,568 registered voters in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties found that 44 percent of those surveyed plan to leave the Bay Area, but only six percent had real plans to depart in 2019.

Chicago-based public relations firm Edelman released its annual Trust Barometer for California in February. Of the 500 Bay Area residents polled, 50 percent said they plan to leave California.

The same month Joint Venture Silicon Valley released its annual Silicon Valley Index and reported “for the third year in a row, people are moving out of Silicon Valley nearly as quickly as they are moving in.”

It’s important to note that planning to leave the Bay Area is not the same thing as actually leaving. Most Bay Area counties saw their population increase in 2017 and 2018.

In San Francisco, immigration buoys census figures in the face of domestic migration, although SF population growth has slowed in recent years.