Mark Baldassare is survey director at the Public Policy Institute of California, where he previously served as president and CEO. Before joining a panel for the Zócalo event “Is This What Direct Democracy Looks Like?”—presented in partnership with the Berggruen Institute, the Public Policy Institute of California, and the Pepperdine School of Public Policy—he sat down in our green room to chat statewide surveys, JFK, and stepping down as president after 15 years.
You’re a longtime Bay Area resident. Where is one place you love to go in the Bay?
I love to go to Point Reyes. It’s my favorite place to get peace and solace.
What’s in the works for your next act following your tenure as president and CEO of PPIC?
Write a book! On direct democracy, and the future of direct democracy. For 15 years I’ve been president, and the one thing I haven’t been able to do is write a book. Last one I wrote came out a month before I became president [on the 2003 recall]. So I’m going to write about the 2021 recall and direct democracy.
If you could poll every single Californian on any topic, what would it be?
Interestingly, it would probably be religion, which is not a topic I’ve explored at all. But we’re such a diverse state, with so many different points of view—just how people’s religion impacts how they think about a variety of things, or how not having a religion impacts their thinking.
Where would we find you on a typical Sunday?
You would find me by the water—either in the Berkeley Marina walking along the paths of the water or at Point Isabel with my dog, Rudy.
If you were a superhero, what power would you want to have?
I would want to have the power of persuasion, the ability to talk to people and communicate and hopefully help them think things through.
Who is your dream dinner guest—dead or alive?
I would’ve liked to know John F. Kennedy. He’s influenced the way so many people have thought about the country, and hope.