Vast majority think life in Bay Area getting worse, want to leave, poll finds

A new poll paints a stark picture of life in the Bay Area and its residents’ discontents. 

Joint Venture Silicon Valley, in partnership with the Bay Area News Group, polled 1,610 registered voters across five Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. 

A shocking 71% of respondents said the quality of life in the greater Bay Area is worse now compared to five years ago. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they are considering leaving in the next five years — including 53% of respondents who work in the tech sector. 

“It’s the cost of living, high housing costs. I think that is the dominant thing. It’s housing housing housing,” said Russell Hancock, President and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, in a press briefing. “…That is driving almost all of the results.”

Hancock said the 53% figure is the highest percentage of people who have said they want to leave the Bay Area compared to previous polls conducted outside of Joint Venture. 

Indeed, an overwhelming majority of respondents said it’s high housing costs (77%) and cost of living (84%) spurring their desire to seek out greener pastures. Homelessness, wildfires and drought were also issues respondents considered when mulling the decision to leave the Bay Area. 

“We’ve long been a high-stress region. Staggering housing prices, rising homelessness, a stark income divide and a host of sustainability challenges have had us on edge for some time,” Hancock writes in the introduction to the poll. “But when you toss a highly infectious disease into the mix you get a smothering amount of anxiety.”

But as Hancock noted, these feelings go beyond the pandemic and its challenges.

“We’re split (48% to 52%) on whether the Bay Area is headed in the right direction,” he said. 

The poll paints a disturbing picture of life in the Bay Area, but it’s not all doom and gloom. About 65% of respondents said “they feel a strong sense of belonging to the Bay Area” — even more so than they feel connected to their neighborhood and city. Many (66%) applauded their employers’ response to the pandemic and now feel differently about their work-life balance. 

As Hancock pointed out in the briefing, polls “tell us how people are thinking. And that’s worth knowing.”

“Perception,” he added, “is also a form of reality.” 

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