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Latest poll numbers on November ballot measures

Labor Day usually marks the start of the traditional campaign season, when voters start tuning in more earnestly about the issues and candidates on November’s ballot. With that in mind, here are the latest polling numbers from the California Business Roundtable’s weekly survey:

Prop. 30 (Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase) – 54.4 % yes, 40.5 % no

Prop. 31 (two-year budget cycle, etc.) – 40.9 % yes, 36.2 % no

Prop. 32 (bans political contributions by payroll deduction) – 57.3 % yes, 33 % no

Prop. 33 (auto insurance) – 56.5 % yes, 31.8 % no

Prop. 34 (death penalty repeal) – 40.1 % yes, 49.5 % no

Prop. 35 (human trafficking) – 82.2 % yes, 10.8 % no

Prop. 36 (three strikes sentencing reform) – 74.1 % yes, 17.8 % no

Prop. 37 (labeling of GMO foods) – 65.4 % yes, 23.4 % no

Prop. 38 (Molly Munger’s tax increase) – 39.6 % yes, 49.4 % no

Prop. 39 (corporate tax loophole) – 59.2 % yes, 28.9 % no

Prop. 40 (state Senate redistricting) – 47.8 % yes, 25 % no

A lot of money will be spent in the next two months to move these numbers, so don’t read too much into them now. That said, a few thoughts:

    Voter support for any measure often declines as Election Day nears, so anything already polling under 60 percent “yes” has a tough road ahead.
    Jerry Brown’s tax measure is looking a lot stronger than Molly Munger’s, but neither looks like a powerhouse.
    California voters appear ready to save some prison-budget money by putting fewer people away for life (by requiring that a “third strike” be a serious or violent felony), but not by abolishing the astonishingly costly capital punishment process.
    Watch for an extremely well-funded ad blitz from the food industry to knock down Prop. 37’s numbers as soon as possible.

    Nobody’s campaigning for Prop. 40, yet it still has more support than opposition; go figure. It won’t for long.
    In my GOP-convention-inspired-haze, I forgot that a “no” vote on Prop. 40 supports killing the newly drawn district lines, so a “yes” vote preserves the status quo. Never mind, then.
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Poll: More back Brown’s tax plan than Munger’s

Almost two-thirds of California’s likely voters favor raising income taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents to pay for public schools, but most oppose increasing the state sales tax for the same purpose, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.

Both are elements of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot measure for this November.

The PPIC poll found 65 percent of likely voters favor raising the top rate of state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians, while 34 percent oppose it. But only 46 percent support raising the state sales tax while 52 percent oppose that.

When read the ballot title and a brief summary of Brown’s proposed measure, 54 percent of likely voters say they would vote for it while 39 percent would vote against it – about the same numbers as were found last month. Unsurprisingly, there’s a sharp partisan divide – 75 percent of Democrats support it, 65 percent of Republicans oppose it – but independents favor it 53 percent to 43 percent. Public school parents support it widely: 60 percent yes, 36 percent no.

Brown has said that if voters reject his measure, there’ll be automatic budget cuts for public schools; 78 percent of likely voters oppose such cuts.

Another proposed measure, bankrolled by Molly Munger, would raise income taxes on most Californians. The poll found 57 percent of likely voters oppose this, with 40 percent in support.

Brown’s own approval rating is holding steady, the poll shows: 47 percent of likely voters approve of his job performance, 40 percent disapprove and 12 percent don’t know, similar to one year ago (46 percent approval, 32 percent disapproval, 21 percent don’t know). And the Legislature remains unloved: Only 15 percent of likely voters approve of its job performance, while only 10 percent approve of its handling of K-12 education.

Lots more slicing and dicing, after the jump…
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Poll: Americans grow leerier of religion in politics

The public is increasingly uneasy with the mixing of religion and politics, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Church and StateIn fact, the number of people who say there has been too much religious talk by political leaders stands at an all-time high since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago.

Nearly four in ten Americans (38 percent) now say there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders, while 30 percent say there has been too little. That’s a significant flip from just two years ago, when 37 percent said there was too little religious expression and 29 percent said too much. The percentage saying there’s too much expression of religious faith by politicians has increased across party lines, but this view remains far more widespread among Democrats than Republicans.

Also, slightly more than half of the public (54 percent) says churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics, compared with 40 percent who say religious institutions should express their views on social and political matters. This is the third consecutive Pew poll conducted in the past four years in which more people wanted churches out of politics than wanted them in, although the balance consistently tilted in the opposite direction from 1996 to 2006.

And the poll found a sharp divide among voters backing the two leading GOP presidential candidates. Almost six in ten (57 percent) Republican and Republican-leaning voters who favor Mitt Romney say churches should keep out of political matters; meanwhile, 60 percent of GOP voters who support Rick Santorum say that churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political questions.

For my own part, I’ve got to wonder how much of this GOP split is attributable to Rick Santorum’s supporters being more comfortable with his Catholic faith than most Mitt Romney supporters are with his Mormon faith.

The survey, conducted March 7-11 among 1,503 adults, has an overall margin of error of three percentage points; among the GOP voter subsample, it’s a six-point margin.

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Progressives say polls back millionaires tax

With a blizzard of tax-hike measures vying for slots on next November’s ballot, a coalition of labor and progressive groups said today that polling shows their “millionaire’s tax” is the most popular.

So popular, in fact, that proponents say everyone – including Gov. Jerry Brown, who has a different plan of his own – should support it as the only one that has a chance of passing.

The Restoring California Coalition – comprised of more than two dozen groups including unions such as the California Federation of Teachers and progressive groups such as the Courage Campaign – last week submitted to the Attorney General’s office a proposed measure that would hike taxes on income over $1 million by 3 percent and over $2 million by 5 percent. The coalition says this would raise about $6 billion per year, to be spent on K-12 and higher education; services for seniors and the disabled; child care; police and fire services; and roads and bridges.

California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt told reporters on a conference call today that the plan “does not put it on the backs of working families and middle class families who have been suffering, particularly during this economic downturn,” and “resonates with the growing awareness of economic and tax inequity that we’ve seen in recent months.”

Pollster Ben Tulchin said he has interviewed nearly 5,000 likely November 2012 voters in several surveys this year and conducted 16 focus groups around the state, finding strong support for such a measure.

Voters’ perceptions that the rich have gotten richer while the middle class has struggled in recent years, and that the rich don’t pay their fair share in taxes, surged from May to October, perhaps due to rhetoric coming from the Occupy movement, the White House and other quarters, Tulchin said.

He said his October survey found 73 percent of voters are open to raising taxes on the wealthy in order to restore funding to essential services that have been cut, such as education, health care and public safety, while 24 percent said they’re not and 3 percent said they don’t know.

When read a title and summary for their proposal that the proponents believe is similar to what the Attorney General’s office will prepare, 67 percent said they would tend to vote yes – including 37 percent who gave a definite yes – while 24 percent said they would tend to vote no, with 15 percent a definite no. “I have never in my career seen such strong numbers for a title and summary poll for a proposed ballot measure,” Tulchin said.

Support for the plan is at 84 percent among Democrats, 68 percent among decline-to-state or third-party voters, and 45 percent among Republicans, he said. “The fact that it can draw bipartisan support puts it with the best chance of winning.”

In contrast, only 36 percent (14 percent definite) said they would vote for a plan including a 1 percent sales-tax hike and a 0.25 percent income tax hike, while 62 percent are opposed (with 45 percent a definite “no”). “That dog won’t hunt,” Tulchin said.

And the idea – advanced last month by the Think Long Committee – of lowering the state’s sales tax rate for goods but extending the tax to services such as dry cleaning, auto repair, accounting and law say 40 percent support (16 percent definite) and 45 percent opposition (26 percent definite). Tulchin called that “another dead end.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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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.

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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.