Nearly two-thirds of likely California voters support a June 2010 ballot measure that would create a pilot public campaign financing system for candidates running for Secretary of State.
Topping the 60 percent threshold is usually good news for statewide ballot measures. It provides a cushion in the face of opposition, a near certainty in the controversial question about whether taxpayers should directly fund campaigns.
The findings run counter to Field Poll findings last week that found voters in favor of reform but opposed to most of the specific reforms under discussion.
Critics view public financing of campaigns as an inappropriate use of tax dollars. But voters appear to be asking whether it might be worth it, given the heavy influence of special interest money in the selection of who wins and stays in office.
Lake Research Partners conducted the telephone survey of 800 likely voters last week. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
“This survey really encourages me,” said Common Cause regional director Derek Cressman, a longtime advocate for reforms of campaign finance. “While voters have been frustrated for a while, they haven’t been willing to embrace a lot of specific reforms over the past five or six years … But people are starting to believe not only that change is necessary but possible.”
In other survey findings, Lake Research found strong support for the bill among both major parties and decline-to-state voters — 65 percent of Democrats and nonpartisans would vote yes along with 59 percent of Republicans.
Lake Research partner David Mermin also reported that support for the measure grew overall to 69 percent after survey participants heard both the arguments in favor and against the measure.
“That is not the usual pattern,” Mermin said.
The California Legislature, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature, last year placed the measure on the ballot.
Written by now Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, Assembly Bill 583 allows Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018 to voluntarily apply for up to $1 million of public campaign funding in the primary and $1.3 in the general elections. Candidates must adhere to strict spending and outside fundraising caps and disclosure rules, and to qualify, they must obtain 7,600 signatures and $5 contributions from registered voters.
If a non-participating candidate or an outside group outspends a participating candidate, he or she can receive up to four times that expense in what is called “fair fight” money. Click here to read the full measure.