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Mining the Field Poll: Climate Change, Gov, Senate

Jul12

Buried in last week’s Field Poll were some nifty data that confirm something Calbuzz has been arguing for quite a while: that California’s pioneering climate-change law, and now Prop. 23 which seeks to suspend it, is a key political marker in the governor’s race and in the Senate race as well.

The Field Poll found Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman in a statistical tie – 44% for Brown and 43% for Whitman. When a political contest is tied, analysts like to find variables that demonstrate powerful — significant — differences.

Party registration is always one of the most muscular variables. About 74% of Democrats are supporting Brown, for example, and about 80% of Republicans are supporting Whitman.

The Field Poll  also found that Prop. 23, the measure to suspend AB32’s requirement to rollback the level of greenhouse gases in California, is running behind, with 48% of the voters opposed and 36% in favor – generally regarded as a weak starting point for a ballot measure.*

But a separate crosstab that the Field Poll ran at our request showed that voters who favor Prop. 23 are supporting Whitman over Brown by 55-34% while those who oppose the measure are supporting Brown  by 54-34% — virtual mirror images.

At the same time, and even more impressive: Whitman voters are supporting Prop. 23 by 45-36% but Brown supporters are opposing the measure by an even stronger 60-28%. These are differences you can call statistically significant.

Some, but not all of this is the effect of party registration, since Democrats oppose Prop. 23 by 57-31% and Republicans support it 47-33%. But it’s also clear that there’s some powerful correlation going on between opposition to overturning AB32 and who voters are supporting in the governor’s race.

It’s important, too, that independents – who are supporting Whitman over Brown by just 42-39% — also are opposed to Prop. 23 by 53-29%. If Brown makes those independents aware that Whitman has called for a suspension of the state’s climate-change law, it could create a problem for Whitman among this important group of voters.

There’s a strong connection between Prop. 23 and the Senate race, too.

Fiorina voters favor Prop. 23 by 47-34% while Boxer voters are opposed 62-27%. At the same time, supporters of Prop. 23 favor Fiorina over Boxer by 58-35% while opponents of Prop. 23 favor Boxer 60-32%.

The undecideds in the Senate race are opposed to the measure 47-28% — giving Boxer an opening to make inroads among voters who haven’t made up their mind about the Senate race but who know for sure they don’t want to roll back California’s climate change law.

Digging further into the Field Poll crosstabs yielded some other nuggets:

– Brown’s favorable-unfavorable ratio among Democrats is just 68-15%, the reverse of his standing among Republicans which is 68-15% unfavorable. But among non-partisans – the true swing vote in California — Brown’s got a further problem: his standing is 47-34% unfavorable. On the other hand, his ratio is 50-34% favorable among moderates.

– Among voters age 18-29, 35% have no opinion about Brown, among voters 30-39, 33% have no clue about him and three in 10 Latinos have no opinion about him. In other words, Brown has an enormous task ahead introducing himself to young voters before they hear about him from Whitman.

– Whitman’s got favorability problems of her own. Her status among Republicans is 65-18% favorable and among Democrats it’s 60-20% unfavorable. Like Brown, the independents have an unfavorable view of her – 46-40%. Unlike Brown, moderates have a negative view of her, too: 45-39% unfavorable.

– Despite spending a jillion dollars on TV and radio ads in the past few months, she’s not much better known among the 18-29 year-old voters than Brown is: 30% have no opinion of her and among those who have an opinion it’s 43-27% unfavorable. (The younger voters who know Brown like him a lot more: 39-26% favorable.)

– Worst of all for eMeg: women don’t seem to like her much. Her favorability, which is 42-40% on the unfavorable side is driven mostly by women. Men see her favorably 43-41% but women lean 43-37% unfavorable.

* Since the initiative and referendum were created just after the turn of the century in California, the “no” position on propositions has beaten the “yes” position about two-thirds of the time. When a proposition begins with less than 60% support, it’s historically in trouble. That can change if enough money and resources are thrown into the mix. But it’s tough. It doesn’t help the “yes” side when proponents advance silly arguments like we heard last week from John Kabateck, Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business/California, a co-chair of the Prop. 23 campaign.

Here’s the question that Field asked:

Have you seen, read or heard anything about a statewide ballot proposition to suspend state air pollution control and greenhouse gas emission laws until unemployment is reduced in California?

(As you know) this proposition would suspend state laws requiring reduced greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. It requires the state to abandon its comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction program that includes increased renewable energy, cleaner fuel requirements and mandatory reporting and fees for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries until the suspension is lifted. If the election were being held today, would you vote YES or NO on this proposition?

The complaint from the so-called “California Jobs Initiative”?

Most importantly, the survey failed to mention anything about the costs of AB 32 implementation, which are projected to run in the billions in higher electricity, natural gas, gasoline and diesel costs and to cause the loss of over a million jobs.

And then — we’re not making this up — after trashing the poll, they trotted out the old chestnut: “the only poll that counts is the one on election day” argument.

“The only poll that matters is the one that will go before voters on November 2nd, “concluded Kabateck. “We’re confident that when voters have all the facts they’ll vote for jobs, affordable energy and fiscal responsibility – that means a Yes vote on Prop. 23.”


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