School awarded Haynes Foundation grant

Jon Gould

UCI-OC Poll gets $100,000 boost to expand

The John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation has awarded UC Irvine’s School of Social Ecology a $100,000 grant to explore embedding its UCI-OC Poll further in the region.

The poll, launched last year, provides reliable survey data on the issues confronting Orange  County residents. It also brings business leaders together with elected officials and community members to discuss workable responses to key issues that will influence future investment, business activity and community operations in the county. 

“Orange County is one of the six most populous counties in the country,” says Jon Gould, dean of the School of Social Ecology who spearheaded the poll. “If it were a city it would be the third largest in the nation. Also, Orange County is one of the few truly purple counties in America – a place where the left and right not only live side-by-side but must find a way to collaborate to get things done. As the county has grown, its leaders need reliable methods to track and analyze residents’ concerns, views, and priorities on a variety of pressing issues so that we are not forced to rely on anecdotal understandings or the feedback from the handful of residents who show up for city council meetings.” 

That’s why the School launched the UCI-OC Poll, and the Haynes grant will allow it to expand. 

So far, the School has provided three sets of polls. The first surveyed Orange County residents on homelessness and affordable housing. In collaboration with the Orange County United Way, the School presented the findings to an audience of more than 200 leaders from nonprofit organizations and businesses and elected officials. Those in attendance participated in discussions to collectively map out possible solutions to homelessness and affordable housing. 

The second and third releases, “Red County, Blue County, Orange County” and “Orange County as Bellwether?” respectively, focused on Orange County residents’ views on politics and the upcoming presidential election. 

The next poll will focus on “brain drain” in Orange County. As the poll continues, School leaders envision exploring such issues as alternative transportation, intolerance/hate crime, sustainability and criminal justice, among other topics.

The UCI-OC Poll goal, Gould explains, is to lay the basis for convening elected representatives and business and community leaders to discuss the findings and begin to map out responses in Orange County. 

“It is hardly a stretch to say that America is threatened by a breakdown in democratic norms — from the growing inability of dueling partisans to work together, to even public disagreement over what constitutes facts,” he notes. “However, Orange County provides a potential opportunity to bridge these divides. Orange County represents a laboratory where the left and right not only live alongside one another but also must find some way to collaborate to run the county and address challenges that threaten the quality of life. Among these issues are homelessness, affordable housing, resident relocation, climate change and sustainability. These issues require collective input from policy makers, elected officials, service providers and community members. Getting these stakeholders together and working in the same direction is a key ingredient to healthy civic life – and also an example for the rest of the nation as many other communities struggle with the challenge of bridging divides.”

Mimi Ko Cruz