PPIC Releases Massive Survey Showing Obama Up in California, Propositions 4, 8, and 11 Below Majority Support, Economy as the Major Issue, and Voters Soured on Governor and State Legislature and in Favor of Reforming Two-Thirds Rule for Budget Passage


The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has just released a 42 page poll that covers the attitudes of Californians towards their government and includes the Presdential race where Barack Obama has a 50% to 40% lead over John McCain—very much the same margin as their prior survey.

As to California issues, Prop 8, the elimination of same sex marriage rights is failing with a majority of voters opposed, Prop 11 on redistricting still has less than a majority of voters supporting it (a sign that it is likely to fail) and Prop 4 requiring parental notification and a waiting period before a minor’s termination of a pregnancy is ahead but not with a majority of California’s voters. Governor Schwarzenegger continues at a 38% approval rating, but the legislature fares worse—at 21% and amongst likely voters is at a record low 16%.

Another finding, one of many in this report is that there has been a shift in the public’s attitude towards modifying the requirement that the California state budget be passed by a two-thirds vote. A record high 49% of Californians and 46% of likely voters (a plurality of both groups) say it would be a good idea to change the requirement to pass a budget to 55%.

The economy is the main issue and voters are in a pessimistic mood about it and the direction of the state.

Many of PPIC’s findings are in accord with the most recent Field poll results, although there are some differences. It was taken September 9 through 16 (and Field was taken between September 5 to 14), both before the budget passed and also before the severe collapse of investment banks and the most recent turmoil on Wall Street.

There is a slightly less Democratic percentage of voters in those interviewed than is represented in actual registrations (PPIC’s sampling was 42% Democratic whereas registration figures recently released by the California Secretary of State show it to be at 43.9%, almost two points higher). Despite an 11.7% edge in registration the PPIC model of likely voters shows there being only an 8% gap in those who actually turnout. If young voters turnout higher than in the past and in accord with their numbers in the February primary the results could be more favorable to the Democrats. Whereas the Field Poll includes calls to cell phones, the PPIC only surveys landlines, and this may account for an underreporting of young voters, by far the most enthusiastic Democratic votes.

Presidential Race

Obama-Biden leads McCain-Palin 50% to 40% amongst likely voters—a smaller spread than the Field Poll’s 52% to 35% Obama lead—but essentially the same as PPIC had the race pegged in their August (48% to 39% Obama) survey before the conventions, VP picks, and additional campaigning. The PPIC’s data shows that California likely voters are falling into traditional party line splits with 84% of Democrats voting for the Democratic ticket and 83% of Republicans voting for the Republican ticket. Independents favor Obama 53% to 35%.

There is a gender gap here, with women favoring Obama-Biden by 20 points, 56% to 36%. Men are essentially split, within the margin of error, at 44% to 43% for Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin. Latinos favor Obama by 27 points, 57% to 30% whereas whites favor McCain46% to 44%, within the margin of error.

There is more satisfaction amongst Democrats (74%) with their choices for President than with Republicans (67%) and independents are split at 49% satisfied and 47% not satisfied. There also is an enthusiasm gap—with 76% of Democrats saying they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting whereas only 62% of Republicans indicate this. Independents lag at 53% to 35% more enthusiastic over not.

By a large margin, the one issue that California voters would like to hear about most from the candidates in debates is the economy (40%). This dwarfs the war in Iraq at 12% with immigration and health care trailing in the single digits. The economy tops the list amongst all political groups. With the developments of the last week, clearly “it is the economy, stupid.”

Amongst all likely voters, despite who they are voting for, Obama is considered to be the candidate who would do the best job on the economy by a margin of 53% to 37%. By a margin of 49% to 44% he is considered the one who would do a better job on Iraq, and by a whopping 57% to 29% all likely voters say he would do best on health care. On immigration, Obama is favored 42% to 40%, within the poll’s margin of error.
Interest is high in this election, with 65% of likely voters and 67% of all Californians saying they are more interested in politics this presidential election year than the last one in 2004. Only 8% of likely voters say they are less interested.

And by a margin of 79% to 18% amongst likely voters, they say it really matters who wins the 2008 presidential election on the important issues facing the country.

My takeaway from all of this is that we will see a record turnout of voters in November in California, favoring the Democratic Party even more than in elections within memory.

Prop 4—Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy

48% of likely voters say they would vote for Prop 4 and 41% say they would vote no. 11% are undecided. This represents a shift from PPIC’s last survey where the voters were more evenly divided at 47% yes and 44% no, although still within the margin of error for likely voters.

This issue has been on the California ballot and rejected by the voters twice before by margins of 47% yes and 53% no in 2005 and 46% yes and 54% no in 2006. In those past elections, it was favored by larger margins at the beginning of the campaign and lost strength closer to election day. This presages what may be a close election this time, as voters who have not decided how to vote generally vote against ballot propositions if there is a campaign against the measure that creates doubts about it.

There is a partisan divide here with Democrats opposing Prop 4 by a large margin, 53% to 36%, Republicans in favor by an even larger margin, 67% to 22% and independent voters favoring it 485 to 44%. Democratic and Republican voters say it is more important to them by virtually the same proportions where as it is less important to independent voters.

Field has not polled on this.

Prop 8—Elimination of Same Sex Marriage Rights

The results here are almost a carbon copy of the Field Poll and show California voters rejecting Prop 8 which would eliminate same sex marriage rights in California by a margin of 55% to 41%. It is extremely difficult for a measure that has majority opposition in polling at this point to win.

There is a partisan divide here—and the numbers are as lopsided as they are because independents join Democrats in opposing this proposition. Democrats by a 71% to 25% margin oppose it and independents oppose it by 53% to 42%. Republicans support Prop 8 by 62% to 34%. Democratic and Republican voters have the same level of importance to the coucome here whereas it is not as important to independent voters. There is no gender gap. Evangelicals are as likely to vote in favor of Prop 8 (64%) as all others are to vote against it (63%).

Prop 11—Redistricting

The PPIC reports that: “California’s likely voters today are divided on Proposition 11 (38% yes, 33% no, 29% undecided), an initiative constitutional amendment to take the authority to draw legislative districts away from elected officials and give it to a commission of registered voters. In 2005, a similar proposition, which would have given redistricting authority to a panel of retired judges, was rejected (40% yes, 60% no).”

Most measures that do not have majority support at this stage of the election cycle fail. There are well funded campaigns for and against this initiative. These polling numbers do not augur well for passage of Prop 11.

There is a partisan divide here with Democrats in support by 36% to 33% and Republicans more strongly in support by 45% to 31%, and independents opposed by 29% to 43%.

As in past elections, California voters want change in the redistricting process—with 43% saying they want major changes and 26% favoring minor changes, combining to 69% of likely votes. Only 16% see the sitatu9ion as fine the way it is. Those who want major change are voting two to one in favor of Prop 11, 62% to 31%. But they are the only group where it has a majority. The jury is still out with those who want minor changes who break out 25% in favor and 29% opposed with a large undecided category. Amongst those who see the situation as “fine the way it is,” it is losing 7% to 30% and those who don’t know if they want change break out 6% in favor and 10% opposed.

Overall Mood of the Electorate About the State—Economy at Record High as Most Important Issue

Even before the meltdown, near meltdown, or whatever you call the situation we are in today—most of which emerged after this poll was taken, a record high 41% of likely voters named jobs and the economy as the most important issue facing California today. The state budget, deficit, and taxes came in a distant third at 12%. All others including education, immigration, gas prices, and housing came in with single digit responses.

By a margin of 67% to 21%, California likely voters feel the state is going in the wrong direction. This includes more than 3 to 1 margins of Democrats and Republicans and a slightly lower 60 to 275 of independents. The latest numbers from Field had it at 70% seriously in the wrong direction and 22% in the right direction.

During the next 12months, 68% of California adults think the state will have bad times financially and 20% think we will have good times. The mood amongst likely voters is even more dour at 72% bad and 17% good . And the trend is clear here whether you rent or own your home, across all regions, and incomes.

52% of Californians think “the current housing situation” in the state will hurt their financial situation in the next year or so. 44% think it will not. 31% expect is to hurt their financial situation “a great deal.”

Stateand Federal Elected Officials’ Approval Ratings

Governor Schwarzenegger continues on with his 38% approval rating—the same as last month, but 12 points lower than a year ago. 55% of Californians disapprove of his job performance. He fares a little better with likely voters at 42% approval and 51% disapproval. He is disapproved by two to one by Democrats, (61% to 33%), receives middling marks from independents (49% to 45% disapproval—within the margin of error for this subgroup) and approval by Republicans (53% to 39%). The overall numbers are similar to Field which has the Governor at 52% disapproval and 38% approval amongst voters.

The state legislature as a whole receives record low marks at 16% of likely voters (statistically the same as Field’s 15%) and 76% disapproval. The approval numbers are low across Democrats (21%). Republicans (13%) and independents (21%).

Likely voters were then asked, “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the job that the state legislators representing your assembly and senate districts are doing at this time?” The results here are a little more charitable towards one’s own legislators at 35% approval and 52% disapproval. This is an 8 point decline for how voters rate their own legislators.

President Bush receives a record low job approval rating in any PPIC survey at 23% of adults and 28% of likely voters. Folks sure have made up their mind here, with 70% opposed and only 2 % who “don’t know.”

As to one’s one representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, the results are balmy with 52% of likely voters approving and 33% disapproving. 15% here don’t know.

Job approval ratings of Senator Dianne Feinstein (48%) and Barbara Boxer (44%) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (40%) are higher than the overall approval of the Congress. These figures are for all California adults (PPIC did not release figures as to these three elected officials with likely voters).

Clearly the California State budget mess has placed state legislators in lower esteem than their counterparts in Congress.

State Budget

79% of likely voters want major changes in the state budget process, another 16% want minor changes and only 3% see this process as “fine the way it is.” The numbers are crystal clear across party lines and with independents.

As to how the budget deficit should be bridged (the survey was taken before the budget deal was brokered and it passed), a plurality, as in previous polling wanted a solution with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. Fewer preferred mostly cuts and even fewer mostly tax increases. The results are the same as other polling and differ from the mostly cuts approach the legislature adopted.

For the first time in PPIC’s history more voters say it would be a good idea to replace the two-thirds vote requirement with a 55% majority vote for the legislature to pass a budget. That approach is favored by 46% of likely voters with 43% opposed. Democrats are in favor 54% to 34%, Republicans opposed by 50% to 40%, and independents split with 46% in favor and 45% opposed.

This is a significant change from last year’s results where 56% of voters thought this was a bad idea.

Likely voters remain strongly in favor of strictly limiting the amount of money that state spending could increase by each year, with 635 in favor and 30% opposed.

The Initiative Process

Voters favor changes in the initiative process, with 30% saying it should be major changes and 32% favoring minor changes with a third of the electorate (32%) saying the process is fine the way it is. The results are uniform as to Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

Facing 12 ballot measures in November, by a 59% to 38% margin, voters feel there are too many propositions on the state ballot. By an even larger margin—84% to 14%, they feel the ballot wording is often too complicated and focusing for the voters to understand what happens if the initiative passes.

Major Political Parties

Last, but not least, by a large margin, 81% to 18%, voters feel there are important difference between the Republican and Democratic Party. This includes higher percentages of Democrats and Republicans and a lower 69% to 29% amongst independents. However, on the strength of the views of independent voters, by 52% to 41%, most likely voters feel a third party is needed as opposed to the major parties doing an adequate job.

However, the 21% of voters who are independent, identify with the Democratic Party by a large margin of 46% to 22% over the Republican Party and 24% say “neither” and 8% don’t know.


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