Drought, water shortages become top worry for Californians: poll

The receding water line of Lake Hodges is seen in San Diego County January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Victoria Cavaliere (Reuters) - California's devastating drought has become the top concern for residents for the first time, as the most populous U.S. state experiences mandatory water cutbacks, according to a poll released on Wednesday. More than one-third, or 39 percent, of likely voters surveyed by the Public Policy Institute of California named water shortages and the drought as the state's most pressing issue, followed by 20 percent who said jobs and the economy were of biggest concern. It was the first time the state's record drought, now in its fourth year, has ranked as the top concern for residents, the poll said. Nearly half of those surveyed, or 46 percent, said they believe Governor Jerry Brown's order imposing the state's first-ever mandatory cutbacks in urban water consumption does enough to address the issue. Another 36 percent said the restrictions, which require reductions of up to 36 percent in some communities, do not do enough. "Public concern about the drought is at a record-high level today," Mark Baldassare, the institute's president said. "Most Californians are satisfied with the governor's actions, but a sizable number say the mandatory water reductions have not gone far enough." Brown's overall job approval rating stands at 52 percent, down from an all-time high of 61 percent in January, the poll found. Twenty-seven percent disapprove of the job he is doing, while 21 percent are unsure. California residents are also increasingly in favor of legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana, the poll said. Support stands at 54 percent, with 44 percent opposed, up slightly from 53 percent support in March. On the issue of childhood vaccinations, a strong majority of people across the state, or 67 percent, also voiced support for requiring inoculations for children in public schools, the poll said. The California Legislature is debating a bill that would eliminate personal-belief and religious exemptions to the requirement that parents vaccinate their children before enrolling them in kindergarten. The legislation, which follows a measles outbreak that began in December at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, has faced strong opposition from anti-vaccination activists and parents who say it infringes on their personal liberty. (Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in New York; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)