After six years of pain, Californians now say they are better off: poll

By Jennifer Chaussee

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - For the first time in over six years, since the start of the recession, more Californians are saying they are better off financially than those who say they are worse off, according to a Field Poll to be released Thursday.

California, the most populous U.S. state and home to the eighth largest economy in the world, was among the hardest-hit states in the housing crash and resultant recession. But for the first time since 2007, more Californians have reported feeling better off than worse off.

“There’s never been a time in recent California history where we’ve had six consecutive years where people were saying they were worse off than better off,” said Mark DiCamillo, who directs the Field Poll. “It’s a very pervasive finding and at least now it’s changing.”

The report shows 44 percent of registered voters in the state believe they are in a better financial situation this year than they were last year, compared to 28 percent who said they are worse off and another 28 percent who said they haven’t seen a change.

Even so, the majority of voters still say the state’s economy is in bad shape and that unemployment is a very serious issue. In San Francisco, 49 percent of voters said jobs are hard to come by, along with 81 percent of voters in other parts of Northern California.

The positive financial outlook of some California voters was not shared by the state’s low income households, more of which reported being worse off than better off. DiCamillo said the discrepancy illustrates a widening gap between the state’s low and high income earners as wealthier households rebound from the economic recession faster than the poor.

“That has to do with assets,” said DiCamillo. “The higher income people have assets and they're seeing that the value of their assets is appreciating, but the lower income segments are far less likely to be homeowners and they have less money in savings accounts or 401k’s.”

The report has a 4.0 margin of error and is based on survey results from 658 registered California voters from a randomized telephone survey conducted in June.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Jeremy Laurence)