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Politics & Policy

Drug crackdowns strongly supported by San Francisco residents, poll finds

A San Francisco police car is seen driving at speed.
A San Francisco Police Department car patrols San Francisco. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

A new poll by the moderate-leaning political group GrowSF reinforces the notion that many San Franciscans feel the city is headed down the wrong track and have limited faith in city leaders and police to rectify issues on homelessness, drugs and crime.

Overall, people were very down on the performance of Mayor London Breed (65% disapproving) and the Board of Supervisors (63% disapproving) in a poll conducted in September. The top five problems surveyed voters identified included: homelessness, which checked in highest, with 94% of respondents calling it extremely or very serious; open-air drug use (84%); fentanyl dealing (81%); crime and a lack of safety (79%); and the cost of housing (79%).

While crime rated high on the list of concerns, three-quarters of those polled said they had not been a victim of a crime in the past year. Of the quarter of people surveyed who said they had been a victim of crime, 42% said they had been victimized more than once in the past year. Only 52% of these people said they reported that crime or subsequent incidents to police.

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Steven Buss, a co-founder of GrowSF, said the findings on repeat crime victims were among the most surprising.

“That’s appalling,” Buss said. “It shows a deep disillusionment among San Franciscans: ‘We simply don’t believe anything will be done.’”

He suggested that city leaders should “take this to heart” when considering whether to boost police staffing and reform the Police Commission

“Everyone should feel safe, and everyone should believe that reporting crimes to the police is worth it,” Buss said.

Mixed Opinions on Mayor’s Race

The poll, which was overseen by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates from Sept. 16 to 21, interviewed 458 people and had a margin of error of ±4.9%, according to GrowSF. Data was collected through online and telephone interviews in English and Chinese. 

More than two-thirds (68%) of people told GrowSF’s pollsters that they felt the city was headed down the wrong track, but 86% of respondents said they believe San Francisco can be fixed. 

Breed had the strongest favorability ratings among the 2024 candidates for mayor, with 34% of people saying they had a favorable impression of her and 8% saying their opinion was “very favorable.” However, 60% of respondents said they have an unfavorable opinion of the mayor, with more than a third (36%) saying their opinion was “very unfavorable.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who was noted in the poll as a “rumored” candidate, came in second with 24% saying they had a favorable opinion, while 35% of respondents gave him an unfavorable rating, including 22% saying they had a “very” negative opinion.

Few people had strong feelings about Supervisor Ahsha Safaí and anti-poverty nonprofit founder Danie Lurie, both of whom have formally committed to running for mayor. Safaí had a 21% favorable rating and 23% unfavorable, while Lurie checked in with 11% favorable and 11% unfavorable.

Support for Drug Crackdowns

On the issue of homelessness, 73% of respondents said they support increasing the number of shelters in the city, but just over half of those surveyed (54%) said they would support building a shelter within a quarter-mile of their home. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of people in the poll said they would support making homeless shelters available to people only if they were not actively using drugs or alcohol.

Breed plans to place a measure on the March 2024 ballot that would require people receiving welfare from the city to agree to treatment if they test positive for or admit to using illegal drugs, and GrowSF polling found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed would support such a requirement.

On the issue of mental health conservatorships, 80% of people polled said that people who “are suffering from a mental health crisis on the streets … should be held without their consent at medical facilities to undergo an evaluation by psychiatric staff.”

San Francisco police and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins have been coordinating a crackdown on drug dealers and users in the city, and 93% of those polled said they support arresting and prosecuting drug dealers, while 5% opposed this approach. The idea of arresting people using fentanyl, meth or heroin in public had less support, with 69% saying they support this, while 27% said they oppose such a strategy.

The vast majority of respondents (64%) said they support drug users being sent to “sobering centers,” while 19% said they should be taken to jail.

Likely voters were split on the effectiveness of installing a network of dedicated lanes for modes of transportation outside of cars and buses (i.e. bikes, scooters), with 43% of respondents saying it was more likely to make a difference, while 46% said it would have no effect.

Dim Views on Schools 

Public schools got a dismal rating, with just 24% of people surveyed saying the education system was in excellent or good condition. Nearly 80% of respondents said they support giving eighth-grade students the option to take algebra, and 88% said they feel every public school in the city should offer advanced placement classes with college credit.

Exiting out of the pandemic, just 16% of people surveyed said they take precautions like wearing a mask always or most of the time, while 58% said they rarely or never wear a mask.

Just over half of respondents said they have a favorable impression of the tech industry, while 39% had an unfavorable opinion.

A third of the people who took part in the survey identified politically as moderate, while 29% described themselves as liberal, 21% as progressive and 9% as conservative.

GrowSF officials said it plans to keep collecting data and publishing a citywide poll every quarter.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct numbers on polling of the mayor's performance.