Californian voters by a margin of more than two-to-one want the Legislature to call another referendum election on whether the state should proceed with its high speed rail project, according to Field Poll results released today.
The California High Speed Rail Authority last month announced its projected costs would be more than double its previous, $43 billion estimate, and that the project will take twice its original 10-year timetable.
The poll found 64 percent want lawmakers to give voters another crack at the project, while 30 percent don’t. Independent voters are most likely to want a re-vote (77 percent) followed by Republicans (66 percent) and Democrats (57 percent).
Here’s how Field phrased the question:
“Nine billion dollars in state bonds were approved by California voters for the High Speed Rail project in the November 2008 election. At the time, the project’s estimated cost was $43 billion and its targeted completion date was 2020. More current estimates now put its cost at $98 billion and its completion date as 2033. Some think that the state legislature should resubmit the bond package to voters for another public vote next year. Regardless of how you feel about the project, do you favor or oppose the legislature putting the 9 billion dollar state bond package to another public vote in next year’s statewide elections?”
Progressive activist and high-speed rail supporter Robert Cruickshank blogged today that the phrasing wasn’t fair. “I would be shocked if the outcome was any better for the HSR project given the way the question was asked,” he wrote at his California High Speed Rail Blog.
“But what if the question were asked differently? We know that the cost questions are not the only issue associated with the project,” he continued. “Gas prices are rising, airfares are rising, flying is inconvenient, people prefer high speed trains to planes when given the choice, we need to reduce carbon emissions to reduce global warming, the cost of alternative transportation to carry the same amount of people is $170 billion, HSR brings tens of thousands of desperately needed jobs. How would voters respond if the question were framed in that way? The outcome could be very different.”
The Field Poll also found that if such a re-vote were held, the $9 billion bond package narrowly approved in November 2008 would now fail by a wide margin: 59 percent to 31 percent, with 10 percent undecided.
More than three quarters of the state’s voters say they’ve seen, read or heard about the project, so awareness is high.
The Field Poll surveyed 515 registered voters in California from Nov. 15 through 27, with a 4.4-percentage-point margin of error.