Meet the Californian independence movement

Meet the Californian independence movement

There have been several polls showing active support for Californian independence at around 33% of Californians, that’s over 13 million people!   According to Ipsos, another ~15% or so are undecided, bringing the total number of people who are open to the idea to 48% of the State, or ~19 million people.

But who are these people?

In an effort to find out, the CNP posted a survey on our website in January asking supporters of independence to answer a range of demographic and ideological questions so we can get a better idea of what’s what.  As of this writing, 470 people have taken the survey, about half of them CNP members.

Since participation for the poll was self-selecting there is going to be some selection bias in the results – for example people who support the idea but aren’t actively involved in the movement are going to be under-represented while people who are more inclined towards activism in general will be over-represented.  So think of this as a survey of the activist movement, not necessarily the larger base of more passive supporters who would vote for independence but aren’t actively working towards it.

Where are independence supporters located?

The dots are per political party per zip code and the size of the dot represents the number of people in each group.  Orange dots are groups of CNP members, Green are Democrats, Blue are independents, and Yellow are Libertarians.

As you can see, virtually every city along the coast is represented, along with most of the central valley’s cities and even the sierra foothills.  Also notice the way party lines tend to cluster geographically – exactly the way we’d expect given California’s regional polarization.  You can start to see the shape of a winning coalition here with the CNP strong in more progressive areas, Democrats strong in centrist areas, and Libertarians in more conservative areas.

What do independence supporters believe?

So far, the media has portrayed the independence movement as a result of Donald Trump’s election, and it’s absolutely true that the movement gained a large bump in visibility and mainstream acceptance last November.  But if people expect this movement to go away in 4 years when the Americans (hopefully) elect a different president, they are fooling themselves.

Almost half of respondents said they have supported independence for more than a year with another 15% saying they started supporting independence recently, but not because of the election.  3% cited Hillary Clinton receiving the Democratic party nomination as the moment they gave up on American democracy – and in fact the CNP saw one of our early growth spurts after Sanders conceded the primary.

In all, about a third of independence supporters cited Donald Trump’s election as the catalyst. Even if half of them were to give up in four years there would still be a strong movement for independence.

Political affiliation and issues of passion

The movement clearly skews heavily towards progressives with smaller but significant Socialist, Liberal, and Centrist contingents.  There are a few self-identified conservatives, but so far not a huge number.

We asked all survey respondents to list their top 5 issues. One of the most frequent complaints we got from respondents is that they wanted to pick more, but we wanted to force them to prioritize.

Environmental issues came out at the top of the list and clearly one of the core concerns uniting the movement.  Defense and Universal Healthcare came in as second and third, followed by Education, Social Justice, and preserving wild spaces.

The biggest regional variation in responses was for the issue of improving rural representation, which has strong support in both conservative and left-leaning rural areas.  If Marin, Napa, Humboldt, and the Central Valley can all agree on one thing, this is it.

Surprisingly, almost as many people listed pro-life activism as pro-choice activism. Unsurprisingly, 76% of pro-life respondents were male.  It’s also interesting that only 30% of female respondents listed pro-choice activism as a top issue, along with 23% of men.

Note that CNP is pro-choice and has no plans to alter that stance, but that the strong social safety nets we endorse as part of our platform have been proven to reduce abortion rates in the Scandinavian countries where they have been widely adopted – and where abortion is free and easily available.

Gun control and firearms

One of the most common questions we see on social media is people asking about our stance on gun ownership.

Just over 22% of independence supporters own firearms, which is only marginally higher than the 20% ownership rate across California. Since every pro-independence group is explicitly nonviolent, this is not surprising.

Not owning guns doesn’t translate into wanting to ban guns, however – less than 6% of respondents want a gun ban.  Almost 77% favor regulation of firearms, however, and that group is split down the middle on how tight that regulation should be.


Race and ethnicity are always thorny.  We chose to break it down by ancestry and let respondents check as many boxes as applied to them – and as you might expect in California – a lot of people checked more than one box.

That has some key implications for how you read this chart – for example, a latino person with both Indigenous and European heritage would have checked both “Native North American” and “European” and be represented in both.  Most Californios measure our ethnicity in fractions so we felt this was the best way to represent our diversity.

Primary Language

For this question we asked people what languages are spoken in the home.  This question was added to the survey part way through so only about half of respondents had the opportunity to answer it.  As expected, English is by far the dominant language, followed by Spanish.


We decided to frame this question by asking people their preferred pronoun, so a trans person would be listed using their preferred gender identity.

Across all respondents on this question just under 70% preferred masculine pronouns and 28% preferred feminine, the remaining 2% are nonbinary.

It’s no secret that most activist movements skew male (with the obvious and notable exception of the feminist movement), but that’s no excuse for a gender gap this large. Women are particularly harmed by the current far-right administration in Washington and the independence movement needs to better address their concerns and represent their voices in order to grow.

It’s worth pointing out that filtering by political party shows that women who support independence are disproportionately likely to be Democrats.  Among Democrats the gender split is still present but less pronounced – men make up almost 55% of respondents and women 40% with non-binary folks making up the rest.  For the CNP this should be a call to action – we need to do a better job speaking to, recruiting, and empowering women.

Sexual orientation

In terms of sexuality, we originally left this field as a fill-in-the-blank and then standardized the options once it became obvious that most people were providing fairly standard answers.

As expected, straight folks make up the majority but are under-represented relative to their share of the larger population.  This is typical of activist groupings and likely reflects the fact that institutionalized homophobia makes people who are not heterosexual more likely to engage in activism.

Faith and Religion

Atheists and agnostics are radically over-represented relative to their share of the larger population, perhaps reflecting a distrust of institutionalized authority and a greater willingness to disregard tradition.  It is likely no surprise that their ideological forbearers, Deists, were similarly over-represented during the American revolution.

Setting atheists aside, the breakdown is about what you’d expect in California.  Christians come in a close second with a near-even split between Catholics and Protestants.  Taken together they are roughly tied with “other”.  The fact that “other” attracted so many votes means we have room to improve on future versions of this survey and will need to add additional options.

The smallest group is Muslims (the yellow dot) with 0.7% of the total.  While no precise numbers exist for the number of muslims in California, the US average is 1% and we would expect to have significantly more than that because many muslims work in our tech industries.  Given the significant discrimination that the Muslim community in California is currently experiencing, there is likely an opportunity to grow this number through better outreach.


In terms of education, 97% of independence supporters age 25 and above* have at least some college, 65% have at least a 4-year degree, and 27.25% have a Masters or higher.  Relative to the general population, people who support independence are significantly better educated.

*We only counted responses from people 25 and over since most people under that age won’t have had a chance to complete college yet.