Who are the Californians who want independence?

According to our recent poll (the Independent California Poll), 68% of Californians believe they would be better off if California negotiated a special autonomous status within the U.S. 58% believe Californians would be better off if California peacefully seceded.

If you wanted to organize a mass movement around greater independence for California, who should you organize? Demographic data from our poll shows some surprising answers.

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Looking for topline (overall) results? Read “58% of Californians say they’d be better off if California peacefully seceded”.


We found statistically significant differences on the basis of politics, age, gender, education, religion, place of birth, and immigrant generation.

86% of Democrats surveyed said Californians would be better off with a special autonomous status within the U.S. 73% said Californians would better off if California peacefully seceded.

68% of young adult respondents (age 18-34) said Californians would be better off if California peacefully seceded, versus only 38% of seniors (age 65+).

62% of women surveyed said Californians would be better off if Californians peacefully seceded, while only 52% of men agreed.

Roman Catholics, born-again/evangelical Christians, and Californians with post-graduate degrees also said Californians would be better off in particular independence scenarios.



We asked respondents to consider whether Californians would be better off in each of four independence scenarios:

Own Country: California peacefully secedes from the U.S. and maintains friendly relations.

Pacific Union: California, Oregon, and Washington peacefully secede and form a new country.

Autonomy: California negotiates a special autonomous status within the U.S.

Water + Land: Almost all federal land and water infrastructure is transferred to California state and local government.

Because our poll has a relatively small sample size (500 respondents), we took great care to distinguish statistically significant differences from random noise. Every difference between demographic groups that we highlight below is statistically significant with 95% confidence (and in most cases, much higher). Details can be found in the Methodology section, below.


The most powerful demographic predictor of Californians’ interest in secession is their politics, whether it be their party identification, who they voted for for president, or their political ideology.

Self-identified Democrats were much more more likely than Republicans to say Californians would be better off in all four scenarios.

Democrats' highly favorable views of independence combined with the fact that nearly half of California adults identify as Democrats mean that most Californians who favor independence are Democrats:

  • 56% of Californians who think they would be better off if California negotiated a special autonomous status within the U.S. (the Autonomy scenario) are self-identified Democrats.
  • As are 58% of those who say Californians would be better off if California peacefully seceded from the U.S. (the Own Country scenario).

It would seem that any serious path to greater independence for California runs through the California Democratic Party.

This partisan split is visible in our poll because we asked about seceding peacefully. Another YouGov poll taken around the same time simply asked respondents if they supported their state seceding (possibly violently). That poll found no difference along party lines: 33% of both Democrats and Republicans were in support.

Self-identified political independents' views on independence in our poll (above) appear closer to Republicans than Democrats.

However, if you look at who Californians voted for for president in 2020, the opposite picture emerges: non-voters look very similar to Biden voters, with California Trump voters overwhelmingly believing more independence from the U.S. would leave Californians worse off (with the possible exception of the Land + Water scenario).

Trump voters' particularly low opinion of autonomy may be because California-bashing was a major part of Trump's 2020 presidential campaign.

Finally, if you ask respondents about their political ideology rather than their party identification, California Moderates look pretty similar to Californians in general.

One one hand, it is ironic that some of the most powerful differences in Californians' views on independence from the U.S. correspond with the U.S. political spectrum. On the other hand, those are the differences most likely to result in policy changes.


In general, support for independence appears to decline with respondents' age:

We've seen this effect in past polls on California secession as well (for example, question 23 from this 2016 SurveyUSA poll or questions 30 and 31 of this 2017 YouGov poll). However, because past polls only asked about secession and not other autonomy scenarios, they don't tell the whole story.

Seniors have particularly unfavorable views of secession specifically (as in our Own Country and Pacific Union scenarios) but are open to other forms of independence. This becomes especially clear if you compare just the Own Country and Autonomy numbers for each age group:

While every age group views the Autonomy scenario more favorably than Own Country, the gap for seniors is more than twice as big as any other.

What makes seniors different? One hypothesis is that the federal safety net provides more generously for seniors than other age groups; as a result, most California seniors are dependent on the federal government for health care (Medicare) and a portion of their income (Social Security). While California could achieve greater autonomy without threatening seniors' access to these programs, full independence would create more uncertainty.

Any successful independence campaign would likely need to address how California seniors could continue to access their Social Security benefits after independence (for example, through a totalization agreement with the U.S.) and provide for a single-payer health care system to replace Medicare.


Women were 10% more likely than men to have a favorable view of peaceful secession (the Own Country scenario).

Unlike with age, past polls on secession didn't show a significant gender gap, or showed greater support among men than women (for example, question 31 of this 2017 YouGov poll). Why is our poll different?

One possible explanation is that our question is different. Because most past polls didn't specify peaceful secession; women might have a less favorable view than men of the possibility of violence.

Another difference between our poll and others is the timing: Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion, was overturned in June 2022; effects of that decision would not be reflected polls taken before then. Furthermore, one of the major presidential candidates has a plan to restrict abortion access nationwide that does not require the consent of Congress. In less than two years, the United States has become a significantly more hostile towards abortion, making peaceful secession from the U.S. a more appealing option for California women.

To be fair, the 10% gender gap is the weakest result we present, just barely meeting our requirement of 95% confidence. While sampling error isn't the mostly likely explanation, there is a slightly less than 5% chance that the "gap" is just random noise. This is a risk with any poll result, and the best way to be (more) sure a result is real is to run more polls with larger sample sizes.


Californians with post-graduate degrees have a significantly more favorable view than others towards various independence scenarios.

Unlike with age, it would be hard to make an argument that Californians are more supportive of independence the more education they have; the effect appears to be confined to Californians with post-graduate degrees.


Finally, religion plays an unexpected role in Californians' support for independence.

California Roman Catholics have a significantly more favorable view of the Own Country and Autonomy scenarios.

One hypothesis is that this has something to do with 4-term California governor Jerry Brown, a prominent Catholic and former Jesuit who made California a global player in the fight against climate change.

Respondents who identify as "born-again" or evangelical Christians had significantly more favorable views towards secession scenarios (Own Country and Pacific Union).

"Born-again" respondents were also about 10% more likely to say that peaceful secession from the U.S. is possible, which might explain why they had significantly more favorable views than others of secession scenarios specifically. This may be a case of actual religion displacing a quasi-religious belief about the U.S: "the Civil war decided states that cannot secede."

Place of Birth

Prior to running the poll, we hypothesized that native-born Californians might have more favorable views of independence than people born elsewhere, and asked YouGov to add a separate demographic question asking Californians whether they were born in California, in another state, or outside the U.S.

Surprisingly, the only statistically significant result was that Californians born elsewhere in the U.S. are very cool to the idea of California forming a new country with Oregon and Washington (the Pacific Union scenario). They appear to somewhat have less favorable views of California seceding on its own (Own Country) or gaining a special autonomous status (Autonomy), but not with 95% statistical confidence.

Californians born outside the U.S. and native-born Californians seem to have near-identical views on independence.

Immigrant Generation

Second-generation immigrants (U.S.-born people whose parents were born in the U.S. but have at least one foreign-born grandparent) had significantly unfavorable views of the secession scenarios (Own Country and Pacific Union):

It's unclear why there's such an effect for second-generation immigrants specifically (something to do with American identity formation?), but the gap in favorability is big enough that it's very unlikely (less than 1%) to be due to sampling error.

(Another equally valid way of naming immigrant generations is to call immigrants "first-generation," their children "second-generation" and so on. We decided to go with the same terminology YouGov uses.)

Everything Else

We didn't see statistically significant differences in favorability towards any independence scenario along these demographic lines:

  • home ownership
  • marital status
  • family income
  • frequency of prayer
  • how often people follow the news
  • whether they're registered to vote

Either these factors genuinely don't matter, or they matter in ways too small for a poll of this size to capture.

We observed some statistically significant differences between groups that turned out to proxies for age:

  • employment (Full-time vs. Retired)
  • whether they have children under 18 at home
  • race (Hispanic vs. White)

When we removed seniors from the sample, differences along these lines vanished.

A Mass Movement Around Independence

Back to our original question: if you wanted to organize a mass movement around greater independence for California, who should they organize?

Looking at the numbers for the Autonomy scenario, the Californians most likely to be interested are:

  • Democrats (or Liberals, or 2020 Biden voters)
  • people with a postgraduate degree
  • young adults (under 35)
  • Roman Catholics
  • women (probably)

Even if in the near term you're just talking about specific policy changes that give California more autonomy (for example, state of federal land and water infrastructure), there are several reasons you might want to talk about the possibility of California becoming an independent country. For example:

  • To ask questions like, "if California were its own country, what would we do differently?"
  • Because it's easier to explain (if harder to accomplish) than special autonomous status
  • Because the news media find it more compelling

However, certain demographics have a much less favorable view of (peaceful) secession than autonomy in general. You should be conscientious about how you talk about secession with these demographics:

  • seniors (age 65+)
  • Californians born elsewhere in the U.S. (especially if secession involves Oregon and Washington)
  • second-generation immigrants

Finally, people who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 are the demographic least likely to be interested in any form of greater autonomy for California.

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According to the pollster:

Field Period: February 05, 2024 - February 13, 2024

YouGov interviewed 530 California respondents, who were then matched down to a sample of 500 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race, and education. The sampling frame is a politically representative "modeled frame" of California adults, based upon the American Community Survey (ACS) public use microdata file, public voter file records, the 2020 Current Population Survey (CPS) Voting and Registration supplements, the 2020 National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll, and the 2020 CES surveys, including demographics and 2020 presidential vote.

The matched cases were weighted to the sampling frame using propensity scores. The matched cases and the frame were combined, and a logistic regression was estimated for inclusion in the frame. The propensity score function included age, gender, race/ethnicity, years of education, and 2020 presidential vote choice. The propensity scores were grouped into deciles of the estimated propensity score in the frame and post-stratified according to these deciles.

The weights were then post-stratified on 2020 presidential vote choice, as well as a four-way stratification of gender, age (4-categories), race (4-categories), and education (4-categories). Finally, an individual stratification was applied to place of birth in order to produce the final weight.

Because we were working from a small sample (500 respondents), we had to be conscious of the fact that smaller subgroups have larger margins of error. The (two-tailed) margin of error for the poll as a whole is 5.6% (with 95% confidence), but the margin of error for demographic groups we presented range from 7.6% for women to 14.4% for people with post-graduate degrees.

We did two things to find signal in the statistical noise: cut down the number of categories and apply statistical tests.

YouGov's basic battery of demographic questions (which you can view below) can offer extremely fine-grained responses; for example, they let respondents choose from 12 categories for religion, and 16 categories for family income. For every demographic variable we wanted to consider, we reduced it to no more than four core categories, sometimes dropping small or vague categories from consideration in the process. Here's how we formed the demographic variables we presented above:

  • Politics: from YouGov's pid3 variable. We dropped the Other and Not sure categories
  • 2020 Presidential Vote: from YouGov's presvote20post variable. We dropped third-party candidates (Jo Jorgensen, Howie Hawkins, and Other)
  • Political Ideology: from YouGov's ideo5 variable. We consolidated Very liberal into the Liberal category, Very conservative into Conservative, and dropped Other
  • Gender: from YouGov's gender4 variable. We dropped the Non-Binary and Other categories. (Unfortunately, the demographic questions document below is out-of-date and only shows a gender variable with two responses—the question for gender4 is the same)
  • Education: from YouGov's educ variable. We consolidated No high school degree and High school graduate into No college, Some college, but no degree (yet) and 2-year college degree into Some college, and left the 4-year college degree and Postgraduate degree categories as-is
  • Religion: from YouGov's religpew variable. We left the Protestant and Roman Catholic categories as-is, consolidated Atheist, Agnostic, and Nothing in particular into Nonreligious, and consolidated the seven other categories (including Something else) into Other
  • Born Again: used the pew_bornagain variable as-is
  • Place of Birth: not a standard YouGov demographic; this was Q1 of our poll questionnaire
  • Immigration Generation: used the immigrant variable, consolidated Immigrant Citizen and Immigrant non-citizen into a single Immigrant category, left other categories as-is, dropped respondents who skipped the question.

YouGov did not provide us with age categories; instead they gave us respondents' year of birth. We subtracted year of birth from 2023 to get respondents' age as of Dec. 31, 2023, and then stratified it into 18-34, 35-49, 50-64, and 65+.

Two other YouGov demographic variables we reduced the number of categories for (but still did not find statistically significant results) were:

  • Family Income (faminc_new): consolidated into Less than $50,000, $50,000 - $99,999, and $100,000 or more
  • Frequency of prayer (pew_prayer3): left Never as-is, consolidated Once a day and Several times a day into At least daily, and the other four categories into Sometimes

When we did notice that a demographic group appeared to have markedly different favorability towards an independence scenario, we used the following test to determine statistical significance:

If favorability appeared to follow a spectrum along ordered categories (e.g. Liberal to Conservative), we compared the two most extreme groups. Otherwise, we compared the group (e.g. Roman Catholic) to the rest of the sample. To calculate the margin of error for the difference, we used the fact that the variance of the difference of two independent distributions is the sum of their variance. We then calculated the (one-tailed) margin of error with a 95% confidence interval. If the difference exceeded the margin of error, we considered the result statistically significant.

Here are the margins of error we considered:

  • Republican vs. Democrat: 12.4%
  • Biden voter vs. Trump voter: 11.9%
  • Liberal vs. Conservative: 12.9%
  • Age 18-34 vs. Age 65+: 13.1%
  • Women vs. Men: 9.6%
  • Post-grad Degree vs. others: 13.2%
  • Roman Catholic vs. others: 10.0%
  • Born-again vs. not: 10.2%
  • Born elsewhere in the U.S. vs. others: 11.8%
  • Second-generation immigrant vs. others: 11.8%

Most of the gaps we observed well exceeded these margins.

You can see the questions for YouGov's demographic questions and our full poll questionnaire at the bottom of this page.

YouGov demographic questions

Full poll questionnaire