A new statewide poll finds Californians fearful of mass shootings and strongly in favor of more gun control, while also supporting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The poll from the Public Policy Institute of California released Wednesday night also finds more optimism about the state's economy than at anytime since 2007.
"Still," says PPIC pollster and president Mark Baldassare, "many Californians are expressing concerns about the direction of the economy and the state budget situation."
But it's the California reaction to recent news headlines that offers an early view on what could become potent political issues during the 2013 legislative season in Sacramento and next year's statewide elections.
65 percent of those polled say the government is not doing enough to regulate access to guns, and an equal number support a nationwide ban on semi-automatic style assault weapons.
(It's important to remember that the national ban, which expired in 1994, has been in place in California for more than two decades.)
Some of the subgroup results on the assault weapon question isn't surprising -- Republicans oppose the ban, only a small majority of white and male Californians support it. But what does seem intriguing is the high level of support among Latinos and women (each at 75 percent).
Even more interesting, and sobering, is that a full 61 percent of Californians polled say they worry about a mass shooting in their own community, with 35 percent saying that they worry "a great deal."
PPIC asked these questions to align with a recent national ABC/Washington Post poll. That survey found less national support for the assault weapon ban and less worry, on the whole, about mass shootings.
More than a dozen high profile pieces of gun legislation have been introduced so far at the state Capitol. These numbers only seem to reinforce the odds of a bitter debate that puts even more pressure on Republicans... trying to balance their perception among fast growing segments of voters with the demands of their base voters.
But the poll suggests a different dynamic on illegal immigration: all subsets of California voters, including Republicans now say they support an immigration overhaul that allows an ultimate chance at citizenship.
72 percent of likely voters agree with that sentiment overall; that includes 59 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of independents.
The GOP support especially stands in contrast to the vast majority of Republican state legislators, thus begging the question of whether the national focus on the issue could prove problematic for GOP incumbents come 2014.
The full poll is here.
Elsewhere in the poll:
* 51 percent of those surveyed say things in California are headed in the right direction, the first majority seeing optimism since January 2007.
* Gov. Jerry Brown's job approval rating also breaks the majority threshold at 51 percent, a record high. That's 10 points higher than when he took office, and yet another sign that his political capital seems strong as he heads into the third year of his third term.
* 75 percent of Californians polled support Brown's call to send more education money to schools with high numbers of low-income students and English learners. That seems like a very strong starting point for a policy proposal that could likely spark big Capitol fights over school funds for rural/suburban areas and urban communities.
* 70 percent support a hike in the state's tobacco tax. That's no doubt music to the ears of those looking to fight that battle again in 2014, and perhaps confirmation that the defeat of Proposition 29 last June was more about that particular initiative, and not about the tax itself.
* A record high 55 percent of those surveyed support the federal health care law that's now in the process of being implemented both in California and nationwide. That's an 8 point uptick since last year, but this one finds a wide disparity among voter groups, with only Democrats strongly in support.