PPIC Survey: Clinton, Giuliani Ahead in California, Pessimism on Economy and Direction of State, Uptick in Approval of Governor and Legislature, and Term Limits Change Still Ahead8 min read

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Subprime Mortgage Mess Weighing Heavily on Californians Along With State Budget

The Public Policy Institute of California has released a massive survey of over 2000 Californians that contains findings as to the February 5, 2008 presidential primary but more importantly shows how we view the times ahead for the state in light of the budget and economy, in particular the subprime mortgage mess.

Presidential Picks

If the presidential primary were held today, Hillary Clinton would win with 44% of the vote to 20% for Barack Obama and 12% for John Edwards with the other candidates trailing off at 3% or less. This survey was taken November 27 to December 4, and is similar to national polls at the time. So it is a bit stale and not reflective of some of the movement in the earlier primary or caucus states, most notably Iowa and New Hampshire which may have an effect on how Californians may view the race in a month or so.

While the numbers have fluctuated a bit, the PPIC points out that they have not changed much since June when it was Clinton 41%, Obama 25% and Edwards 12%. The findings are similar to other recent polls. Clinton has a big advantage amongst women (49% to 19% over Obama) and there is a huge gender gap of 13 points (she receives 36% of the male vote). The race is a bit tighter amongst those who describe themselves as “liberal” (where she leads 41% to 25%).

There is an interesting question at the end of the poll in which 20% of decline-to-state voters indicate they plan to vote in the Democratic primary, with a full 19% saying they didn’t know. 55% say they are not planning on doing so. (These voters, by the way, lean Democratic by a margin of 38% to 21% in identifying as being closer to the Democratic Party.)

Rudy Giuliani is ahead on the Republican side at 24%, a much tighter race with movement in the other candidates. Mitt Romney follows at 15%, with Mike Huckabee at 12%, followed by John McCain at 11%, and Fred Thompson at 10%. All others, including the much talked about Ron Paul are 3% or below. So, there’s a Huckabee surge, which could be even stronger since the poll was taken.

Democrats are a lot more satisfied with the choices they have for candidates in the presidential primary. 71% of Democrats are satisfied with only 26% not satisfied. With Republicans, there is a 54% to 41% satisfaction rate. Liberals are much more satisfied by 71% to 25% and conservatives are less so at 58% to 36%. This bodes well for a Democratic victory in November.

Prop 93 Term Limits

The yes vote is ahead, but has less than 50% at 46% in favor and 38% opposed. In light of all the negative news and the daily heaping on of screeds against the legislature and its Democratic leadership dished out by the opponents to Prop 93, it is surprising that it still leads. And there are some very interesting results in the crosstabs when one looks beneath the hood. All these figures are for likely voters. And as we’ll see later, the legislature’s popularity has ticked up in this survey.

First of all, it is statistically tied with Democrats—trailing 43% to 44%. It is supported by Republicans by a margin of 55% to 34% and by independents (those who do not have a party or who are members of the minor parties) by a margin of 52% to 32%. It leads in all regions of the state, although the Los Angeles results, 44% to 42% yes is within the margin of error and is essentially tied. It leads amongst Latinos, whites, and all levels of income. It is tied amongst those with less than $40,000 of annual income and loses in the 18 to 34 year old category but prevails in middle aged and older voters—and by a fairly wide margin with older voters.

The PPIC has probed voters about their attitudes on term limits and different parts of the initiative. Californians think that term limits in general are a good thing by a margin of 66% to 15% with another 15% saying they make no difference. This is nothing new and is in line with many other surveys. Republicans by a 76% to 11% margin are the most in favor of term limits.

But what is most surprising here is that of those planning on voting yes on 93, a full 81% believe term limits are a good thing.

Californians also clearly indicate that term limits need changes—29% “major” and 40% “minor” changes versus 24% who see them as “fine as they are.” Those who want changes add up to 69%.

And the details: By a very large margin, 67% to 26%, voters favor reducing the time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years. This includes both parties and independents by wide margins. They also favor, by a margin of 58% to 34%, allowing a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, Senate, or a combination of the two. The last part of the initiative, the one that has drawn the most contention and has been focused on by the “no” side—that of providing a “transition period” allowing current members to serve a total of 12 consecutive years in the house in which they are currently serving regardless of prior service in another house—is disfavored, but only by a 465 to 42% margin. The group that most thinks this is a bad idea are Republicans by 56% to 34%, but both Democrats (by 45% to 42%) and independents (by 49% to 39%) feel this is a good idea.

So while the results show a mixed pattern—47% to 38% in favor of Prop 93, with it being easier to defeat measures than pass them when they are below 50%–the transition period is not a killer to the initiative. One would expect there to be a movement towards the initiative amongst Democrats and away amongst Republicans as the campaign heats up. The poll results appear to indicate that voters are discerning as to the different parts of Prop 93 and can differentiate between their general support for term limits and the need for changes. This one is in play at the moment, especially considering that there are more Democratic votes to be gained and less Republican votes to be lost, considering who the majority party is in the state.

Californians Like the Idea of the Early Presidential Primary and Don’t Mind Voting Three Times in 2008

We’ll see how we feel about this when it’s all over and the mail clogs our boxes and robocalls harass us, but by a margin of 45% to 31% they favor the moving of the presidential primary to February from June, and the numbers are across the board regardless of party.

As to voting three times in 2008, they still think it’s a good idea by a narrow 44% to 41%–and both Democrats and Republicans like this idea 46% to 40%, with independents basically tied at 44% in favor and 45% thinking it’s a bad idea.

State Legislature and Schwarzenegger Approval Up, While Congress and Bush are Very Low

Schwarzenegger continues with higher ratings with 57% of Californians approving and 63% of likely voters approving of his job performance. This is an increase since September and puts him in the same range as last January. He has approval from Republicans at 70% to 26%, and independents 615 to 32%, and even Democrats by a narrower 56% to 39%. He has a 63% approval rating in the San Francisco Bay Area!

Very interesting is that state legislative approval ratings have risen by 7 points since September to 41% and are now similar to those enjoyed by the legislature in January, following the banner year of 2006 which saw major legislation passed. The legislature has polled negatively for some time as an institution and these results are truly balmy. 47% disapprove the legislature, but this is much better than the last survey where 27% approved. Republicans are the most negative on the legislature by a margin of 63% to 29%. Approval is highest amongst Democrats 943%) and independents (40%).

It’s even better when it comes to their own Assemblymember or state Senator. There is satisfaction by Californians by 51% to 36% with our own legislators, with Democrats a lot more satisfied 52% to 36% and Republicans more lukewarm at 47% to 41%.

Bush is at 29% approval and 67% disapproval—in the same range as before. Congress isn’t much higher as an institution at 31% approval and 62% disapproval amongst Californians, and a even lower 23% approval to 72% disapproval with likely voters. But we love our own federal representatives by a 51% to 37% margin. Go figure.

The Iraq War is immensely unpopular with 60% of Californians wanting us to bring the troops home as soon as possible and only 35% wanting them to be kept in Iraq until the situation stabilizes. Democrats favor withdrawal by 71% to 24%, while Republicans are their mirror opposite 72% to 25%, and independents join with the Democrats by a 57% to 38% margin favoring withdrawal.

59% of Californians and likely voters do not believe it is still possible of achieving victory in Iraq.

Other Results

There are many other interesting and important findings in this 35 page survey which will be analyzed in separate articles. These include, growing fears about personal finances and a “sour state of mind” over the direction of the state and the budget, fueled by negative feelings about the subprime housing mess which most Californians feel will impact them personally; health, whether we will have a “year of education” in 2008, immigration, Electoral College reform, and whether state government can deal effectively with disasters. More to come.

In the meanwhile, the entire PPIC survey is available online as well as a much shorter press release at the beginning of that survey which can key you in to some of these areas.

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