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Hope for California's future?

April 8, 2010 |  6:00 am

Job losses are staggering. Declines in property values are among the worst in the nation. The percentage of immigrant residents is even falling.

But California, it seems, has managed to retain some of its traditional allure.

Many Golden State residents believe their longer-term personal situations, and the economy, are going to improve despite pervasive negative feelings about the state’s current economic woes, according to a poll released Thursday by Citibank.

To be sure, nine of 10 Californians said the state’s job and real estate markets are no better than fair, and seven in 10 saw few signs of an improving economy.

Solid majorities of respondents to the poll by the New York bank detected no signs of improvement in the state’s small-business environment, the quality of its schools and education, the tourist industry, or commercial real estate.

Nonetheless, “Seventy-four percent of young people still feel this is an excellent place to live,” Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, Citibank’s president of California operations, said in an interview.

Key responses to questions about California:

-- 91% said economic conditions are only fair or poor.
-- 91% said job opportunities are only fair or poor.
-- 76% said they see no signs of the job market improving.
-- 65% said they see no signs the real estate market is improving.

And yet ....

-- 64% said California is a good or great place to live.
-- 62% were comfortable with their level of debt.

As so often happens, the poll detected a split between denizens of Northern California and Southern California.

Just half (52%) of Los Angeles-area residents believed that the economy would improve in 12 months, compared with about two-thirds (64%) in San Francisco. In the Bay Area, 62% said job opportunities would be better in the next 12 months, versus 56% of Southern Californians.

Indeed, 14% of Bay Area residents described current job opportunities as excellent or good. In the Southland, only 5% agreed.

Macieira-Kaufmann said Citi uses the survey, conducted quarterly, to stimulate conversations with its customers about their financial situations and plans.

The poll, by ABT SRBI Public Affairs, was conducted in English and Spanish by telephone March 23-31 among a random sample of 1,201 Californians ages 18 and older. The margin of sampling error for the entire group was plus or minus 3 percentage points, with a larger margin of error for subgroups.

--E. Scott Reckard