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Field Poll gauges voters on public pension reform

A plurality, but not a majority, of California voters believe pension benefits for most state and local government workers are too generous, and most believe Gov. Jerry Brown is on the right track to reform, according to Field Poll results released today.

But about two in three California voters believe reforms should be made to the benefits of current employees, not just new ones – something legal experts say could be hard to do, as contracts aren’t easily broken.

Two years ago, the Field Poll found 32 percent of voters believed public pension benefits were too generous while 16 percent believed they weren’t generous enough, 40 percent believed they were about right and 12 percent had no opinion. Now, 41 percent say they’re too generous, 14 percent say they’re not generous enough, 35 percent say they’re about right and 10 percent have no opinion.

Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security – a coalition of unions representing more than 1.5 million public workers and retirees – said in an e-mailed statement that it’s “very revealing that even after an intensive and sustained political campaign attacking public employees, about half of voters believe that public employee pensions are just right or too little while just four in 10 think they are too high.”

Republicans are far more likely to believe public pension benefits are too generous (58 percent), while 41 percent of Democrats say they’re about right. Independent voters are split, with 37 percent believing they’re about right and 34 percent saying they’re too generous.

Naturally, union households show more support for the status quo – 48 percent believe the benefits are about right, 27 percent say they’re too generous and 22 say they’re not generous enough – compared to non-union households (45 percent too generous, 32 percent about right, 13 percent not generous enough).

When read a summary of pension reform proposals Brown rolled out in October, 51 percent say they strike the right balance; 24 percent think they go too far and 14 percent believe they don’t go far enough. Voter reactions were relatively uniform regardless of party or union affiliation.

“We believe voters have yet to hear meaningful details about the governor’s pension proposals to make an informed decision, and our own polling demonstrates that, given specifics, some of his proposals are very unpopular,” Low said. “Although voters might think it sounds unfair to single out new employees, it is illegal and unconstitutional to impair benefits for current employees. Given all the facts, Californians will not stand for our state government breaking the law and breaking promises to those who have dedicated their careers to serving the public.”

Low said his coalition’s goal remains simple. “We will continue our hard work with the Governor and the Legislature on reasonable, common sense measures to sustain California’s retirement system, rebuild our state’s working class, provide adequate retirement benefits, eliminate abuses and confront fiscal realities.”

The Field Poll numbers are based on a survey of 515 registered voters conducted Nov. 15 through 27, with a 4.4-percentage-point margin of error.

Posted on Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
Under: pension reform, polls | 6 Comments »

Field Poll: Voters want to reconsider HSR

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.

Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
Under: polls, Transportation | 5 Comments »

Field Poll: Lukewarm approval for Jerry Brown

Not quite a year into Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial tenure, 47 percent of California voters approve of his job performance while 36 percent disapprove, according to Field Poll results released today.

Brown’s numbers have wilted a bit since September, when 49 percent approved of his job performance and 32 percent disapproved. Unsurprisingly, his support remains strongest among Democrats; in Northern California and the Bay Area; and in households with union members.

Maybe the “top secret” special announcement he’s scheduled to make tomorrow at Universal Studios Hollywood – about something “that will bring hundreds of millions of dollars into California’s economy, help create jobs and support our tourism industry,” his press office says – will boost his numbers.

Or maybe not. Either way, Californians still like him a lot more than the Legislature: Only 22 percent of voters approve of the job lawmakers are doing, while 62 percent disapprove. And 68 percent of voters believe California is moving in the wrong direction.

Voters don’t like the automatic spending cuts provision in this year’s state budget, which could trigger as much as $2 billion in reductions to education and other programs as tax revenues fall short of estimates. By a 65 percent to 26 percent margin, voters across party lines think this was a bad idea, just as they did in September.

These results are based on a survey of 515 registered California voters conducted Nov. 15 through 27, with a 4.5-percentage-point margin of error.

Posted on Monday, December 5th, 2011
Under: Jerry Brown, polls | No Comments »

Field Poll: Congress still down in the dumps

The failure of the “Super Committee” to find any solutions to the nation’s budget and debt problems has cemented Californian’s disdain for Congress, according to a new Field Poll released today.

A whopping 84 percent of the state’s voters now disapprove of how Congress is doing its job, while only 10 percent approve; the rest have no opinion.

More than nine in 10 voters see it as a serious situation that the special bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction couldn’t come up with a plan after months of trying. Although a third of voters believe Republicans are more to blame than Democrats for the committee’s failure, half believe both parties share equal blame; only 14 percent believe Democrats were more at fault.

(Those numbers made me think again about something I read last night: This commentary by Paul Barrett, assistant managing editor and senior feature writer at Bloomberg Businessweek.)

And, asked whether they believe the nation has a better chance of solving its problems by electing more Democrats or more Republicans to Congress next year, 40 percent said neither will make much difference, 31 percent said Democrats, and 26 percent said Republicans.

The Field Poll surveyed 1,000 California voters from Nov. 15 through 27; the poll has a 3.8-percentage-point margin of error.

Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2011
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, polls, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Field Poll: Obama looks bad but better than GOP

Californian voters don’t much like the idea of re-electing President Barack Obama but they like the alternatives even less, according to today’s new Field Poll.

Only 45 percent of the Golden State’s voters say they’re inclined to have the president serve a second term. Still, he leads the top two Republican contenders by double digits: The poll shows its Obama at 50 percent and Mitt Romney at 40 percent, or Obama at 55 percent and Gingrich at 35 percent.

The survey of 1,000 California voters was conducted Nov. 15 through 27 and has a 3.1-percentage-point margin of error.

The Field Poll found Obama’s job approval rating stands at 48 percent, with 44 disapproving. That’s better than his national numbers; an average of five national polls conducted in recent weeks shows him with 43 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval. On the economy specifically, Californians’ opinion of his work has improved in the past two months, with approval rising from 40 percent to a still-meager 45 percent.

The Field Poll also found that 70 percent of California voters believe the nation overall is seriously off on the wrong track – almost the same proportion as believed so during President George W. Bush’s last year in office.

In a state where big turnout delivers Democratic victories, apathy is anathema to that party’s candidates. Sadly for the president, this poll found 43 percent of California voters don’t believe either re-electing Obama or electing the eventual GOP nominee will do much to solve the nation’s economic problems. Among those who believe otherwise, 27 percent believe Obama’s a better bet and 25 percent believe the GOP is.

Posted on Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, Obama presidency, polls | 4 Comments »

Field Poll: Romney on top, but voters still tepid

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains on top while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged to a strong second among GOP presidential candidates, but California’s Republican voters still aren’t thrilled with their options, according to a new Field Poll.

While candidates strive to solidify their support in the final months before the first caucuses, this poll also shows an increasing proportion of California Republicans – 26 percent, up from 16 percent two months ago – are undecided about who they want as the nominee. More than three in four who expressed a preference for one of the candidates say it’s still early and admit they’ve not made a final decision of who they’ll vote for.

Perhaps that’s because only 16 percent are very satisfied with the field of GOP candidates; 47 percent say they’re somewhat satisfied; and 33 percent are not too satisfied or not at all satisfied.

Romney has the support of 26 percent of California Republican voters; Gingrich has 23 percent; former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain has 9 percent; and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has 5 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’d entered the race amid much buzz – and 22 percent report in September – but fizzled in his debate performances, has plummeted and now is tied at 3 percent with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Bring up the rear are former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at 2 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 1 percent.

Gingrich’s strongest base of support is among the 26 percent of Republican voters who identify a lot with the Tea Party movement; in that group, he leads Romney 38 percent to 18 percent. But among all other Republican voters, Romney leads Gingrich 29 percent to 18 percent.

Among the slightly less than half of California Republicans who call themselves strongly conservative, 84 percent have picked a candidate while 16 percent are undecided; within this segment, Gingrich leads Romney 31 percent to 29 percent. But more than a third of Republican voters who consider themselves moderate remain undecided; in this segment, Romney leads Gingrich 24 percent to 17 percent.

GOP men are dividing almost evenly between Romney (28 percent) and Gingrich (27 percent), while women prefer Romney over Gingrich 25 percent to 19 percent. And Romney’s support skews younger: He leads Gingrich by 10 percentage points among Republican voters under 50, although 52 percent of that age group is still undecided; those 50 or older prefer Gingrich by three percentage points.

The Field Poll surveyed 330 California Republican voters from Nov. 15 through Nov. 27; the poll has a 5.7-percentage-point margin of error.

Posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney, polls, Republican politics | 2 Comments »

Poll tries to unpack Occupy Oakland’s beliefs

A pair of Oakland pollsters say their firm’s survey of Occupy Oakland protesters shows a diverse movement united by a shared sense of frustration with the status quo and driving toward some improvement that’s not even clear to them yet.

“In six words, we would sum up their responses to our survey as follows: They want things to be better,” wrote David Metz and Greg Lewis of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, a Democrat-oriented public opinion research and strategy firm.

Metz and Lewis wrote that they did their survey in the public interest, not for any third-party client.

“Our employees either live in Oakland or in neighboring East Bay cities; the Snow Park encampment is next door to the office we work out of every day; and the encampment in the Plaza was just a half mile down the street before the November 14 raid brought it to an end,” they wrote. “Our business is finding out what people think, and the Occupy Oakland movement is a subject we all wanted to know more about.”

They acknowledge they couldn’t capture a statistically representative sample of so fluid and self-defined a movement, so they sent professional interviewers out with the goal of talking to as diverse a selection of protestors as possible. The interviewers were out in Frank Ogawa Plaza on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 12, at various times between noon and 6 p.m., talking to campers and visitors.

“While we certainly can’t say that our results reveal the views of Occupy Oakland with statistical precision, we can say that over the course of 109 interviews, we were able to learn a lot about the Oakland movement and the opinions and attitudes of the people who identify with it,” they wrote.

Among other things, they found persistence: 64 percent of those interviewed identified themselves as “frequent” participants in Occupy Oakland events, while 21 percent said they were “occasional visitors.” About 74 percent said they were from the Bay Area, including 48 percent from Oakland, 12 percent from elsewhere in Alameda County and 14 percent from other Bay Area locales. And almost everyone said they would keep participating in the movement “indefinitely.”

The protestors were fed up with both political parties, seeing widespread corruption throughout the system, and were lukewarm about President Barack Obama. Still, there is a partisan leaning – while 43 percent view the Democratic Party unfavorably, 74 percent see the Republican Party unfavorably and 67 percent see the Tea Party movement unfavorably. Views of the president were split about evenly: 33 percent favorable, 30 percent unfavorable and 34 percent neutral.

But 70 percent said they’re registered to vote and intend to do so in the 2012 presidential election, and that subset was slightly more likely to have a favorable opinion of President Obama; those who said they would not vote were more likely to view him negatively.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Under: Oakland, polls | 9 Comments »

Poll: Romney leads GOP pack in California

Mitt Romney has a small but solid lead in California among Republican presidential candidates, according to a new poll from the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times.

The former Massachusetts governor has support from 27 percent of registered Republicans in the state, followed by Herman Cain with 20 percent, Newt Gingrich with 14 percent and Ron Paul with 6 percent.

“What has remained unchanged for the better part of the year is that Romney maintains support from roughly a quarter of Republican primary voters in California,” Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics, said in a news release. “The only thing that has changed is the identity of his chief opponent.”

But Romney is still trying to consolidate his support among conservatives; 22 percent of GOP voters are still undecided. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, once near the top of the polls, now has only 3 percent support in the Golden State. But among self-identified Tea Party supporters in California, Cain holds three-percentage-point lead over Romney, 29 percent to 26 percent.

Meanwhile, the poll also found 50 percent of California voters approve of President Barack Obama’s job performance, the same as in September; 42 percent disapprove. The president’s numbers are buoyed by 81 percent approval from black voters and 64 percent approval from Latino voters.

“Make no mistake about it, African American and Hispanic voters are President Obama’s political lifeline in California. More likely than not, their overwhelming support for his re-election is probably going to make this state less than competitive in November 2012,” Schnur said.

Asked whether they would vote for Obama or Romney in a hypothetical match-up, 52 percent of California voters picked Obama while 35 percent picked Romney. In other match-ups, Obama led Cain 54 percent to 31 percent and led Perry 55 percent to 31 percent. “Californians are not particularly enthused about the president’s job performance or his re-election campaign, but what makes him a solid bet for winning California in next year’s general election is that most voters don’t see the Republican party as a viable alternative,” Schnur said.

And the poll shows 47 percent of California voters favor the Occupy Wall Street movement while 33 percent oppose it. Asked if they agree or disagree with what the movement is saying about the country, 48 percent said that they agree and 29 percent said that they disagree. Along party lines, 62 percent of registered Democrats agree with the statement and 15 percent disagree, while 21 percent of registered Republicans agreed and 55 percent disagreed.

The poll found 35 percent of Californians consider themselves supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement and 27 percent consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.

“Both represent roughly one-third of their respective parties: the Occupy Wall Street movement for the Democrats and the Tea Party movement for Republicans. So both movements have some ability to have an impact on the direction their party’s nominee takes next fall not only in a presidential campaign, but in a congressional race as well,” Schnur said. “However, neither will determine the party nominee or policy agenda a nominee takes into a general election.”

The poll was conducted Oct. 30 through Nov. 9, surveying 1,500 California registered voters. The poll’s margin of error is 2.52 percentage points.

Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency, polls | 3 Comments »

TWINC: Polls, the President, the GOP & Solyndra

On Friday night’s edition of “This Week in Northern California,” we talked about what recent California polls mean for the President, Congress and Republicans, as well as about the state GOP convention, plus the Solyndra bankruptcy debacle. Also, Belva Davis’ interview with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

Posted on Sunday, September 18th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency, polls, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

President takes pounding in new Field Poll

As the Associated Press reports, “a Field Poll released Wednesday shows support for President Barack Obama is falling even in reliably Democratic California, where the shaky economy and persistently high unemployment have created pessimism about the future.”

As Field put it, the current proportion approving of his performance (46 percent) is now only slightly greater than the proportion disapproving (44 percent), which is a big change from three months ago when Californians approved of the job he was doing 54 percent to 37 percent. Also, those who are inclined to re-elect President Obama outnumber those not inclined by just five points (49 percent to 44 percent).

Although the overall personal regard that Californians have of the President remains quite positive – with 55 percent viewing him in a generally favorable light and 41 percent holding a negative impression – that’s an extremely partisan number. Democrats view him positively by a five-to-one margin, while Republicans see him negatively four-to-one; independent voters tend to see him favorably by a five-to-three margin.

Given the state’s current voter registration – 44 percent Democratic, almost 31 percent Republican and 20.4 percent decline-to-state – this doesn’t exactly make California a prime battleground state in next year’s general election. The numbers beg the question of whether more Californians upset with Obama are angry about what he has done, or about what he hasn’t; that in turn begs the question of how hard it’ll be to mobilize voters in 2012, and what it’ll mean for newly redistricted Democrats trying to ride the President’s coattails.

Note that this poll didn’t pit Obama against any of the potential Republican challengers; I’ll be curious to see such a survey of Californians.

Still, California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro sees blood in the water.

“The drop in Obama’s polls numbers in California is a direct result of the poor economic performance of Obama’s and Jerry Brown’s policies,” he said in a statement e-mailed late this afternoon. “Rather than funding more government programs, both need to restore confidence and incentives to the private sector. It’s a simple formula for success that neither seems to appreciate.”

This Field Poll was conducted Sept. 1-12 among a random sample of 1,001 registered voters in California; it has a 3.2-percentage-point margin of error.

Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency, polls | 41 Comments »