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Why Increased Robopolling in California is Troubling

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll, and Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California, discussed polling in the 2010 election at the Sacramento Press Club this week. DiCamillo talked about the rising influence — and the problems with — robopolls like Rasmussen, Pulse Opinion Research  and others. What he had to say is too important to be heard only by the hacks of the press corps. Here’s an edited version of DiCamillo’s remarks for the Calbuzz cognoscenti.

By Mark DiCamillo
Director of  the Field Poll

When comparing the polling in California this year to previous years, two things stand out. The first is the sheer number of pre-election polls conducted and reported.  When reviewing only polls conducted in California’s general election races for governor and U.S. Senate, by my count there were at least 75 different statewide public polls completed by 14 different polling organizations. And this doesn’t even count the many private polls conducted in each contest for the various political candidates and campaigns.

The other thing that jumps out is that in this election cycle more of the polls than any year previously were robopolls, also referred to as Interactive Voice Response or IVR polls.

By my count nearly half of all of the statewide public polls reported in California’s general election in the governor and Senate races were robopolls. If you were to also include polls conducted in local election contests across the state, robopolls constituted the majority of all public polls in California in this year’s general election.

Because robopolls are now so prevalent, it is more important than ever for the media and the public to understand just how these polls differ from traditional telephone polls, especially those conducted by the state’s three leading public polls – The Field Poll, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Los Angeles Times/USC Poll.

Comparing the methodologies: The basic survey approach of robopolls is to contact people by telephone using the recorded voice of a professional announcer. The announcer instructs those answering the phone to use the keypad on their phones to answer their poll questions. Traditional polls use live interviewers to call voters who ask each question directly.

Because most of the costs of conducting a traditional telephone survey are derived from the time spent and wages paid to telephone interviewers and their supervisors when carrying out data collection, robopolls are much cheaper to conduct than a traditional telephone survey since there are essentially no interviewer costs associated with conducting these polls.

This is one of the reasons why they are now so prolific. They can be conducted at a fraction of the costs of conducting a traditional phone survey.

However, other than cost, robopolls differ from traditional telephone surveys in a number of important ways.

(1) Short polling period, no callbacks

Most robopolls are typically conducted very quickly over a one-day period. They typically make only one attempt to reach a voter at each number dialed. If no one answers the phone they do not make callbacks to that number but simply replace it with a new telephone listing.

By definition, this means that robopolls have significantly lower response rates than traditional polls and are polling only those segments of the voting public that are the easiest to reach.

Contrast this to a Field, PPIC or Times/USC poll which is typically conducted over a one-week period and which makes up to six to eight different attempts at each usable number to try to bring voters into their samples. While this is more costly and time consuming, it produces samples that more closely capture the varied demography of California’s voters — working and non-working, old and young, white non-Hispanic and ethnic, those living alone and those living in multi-family households.

(2) Limited knowledge about who is actually answering their questions

Robopolls make calls from a random digit dial sample of all possible residential landline telephone numbers within the political jurisdiction they are polling. The recorded announcer instructs the person answering to tell them if they a registered voter, leaving this important selection criteria totally in the hands of the respondent.

Polls like The Field Poll, the Times/USC Poll and virtually every private poll conducted for a political campaign sample voters off of lists derived from the state’s official voter registration rolls.

This gives the poll a number of advantages. First, it enables interviewers to ask to speak to a specific individual by name and if that individual is not available, the interviewer can make appointments to call back that voter at a later time. Also, because the sample of names is derived from lists of known voters, we know by definition that the person we are seeking is indeed a registered voter. Working off a voter list also provides the pollster with the voter’s actual party registration as well as their frequency of voting in past elections, since this information is contained on the official voting records. This information can also be used to ensure that the sample is aligned properly to the state’s actual party registration and in identifying which voters are most likely to vote.

(3) Exclusion of cell phones

By law, the automated dialing devices used by the robopolls are not allowed to call cell phones. Traditional telephone polls routinely dial cell phones by hand to include them into their samples. Since more than 20% of all California voters are now cell-phone-only households and cannot be reached when dialing random sample of landline phone listings, most robopollsters are systematically excluding these voters from their samples.

(4) Language limitations

To my knowledge, the pre-recorded messages of most robopolls are in English only. This excludes from their samples the additional set of voters who do not understand spoken English. By contrast, Field, PPIC and the Times/USC polls routinely conduct all of their statewide polls in English and Spanish. In addition, Field’s final pre-election poll this year was extended further to include four other Asian languages and dialects — Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.

We estimate that 7%-10% of all registered voters in California would either prefer or require non-English language interviewing when completing a telephone survey, so this portion of the state’s fast-growing ethnic voters is under-represented by the robopolls.

(5) The need to construct a model and apply larger weighting adjustments

Each of these factors means that the quality of the raw unadjusted survey data derived from robopolls is of significantly lower quality than that of traditional telephone polls like those conducted by Field, PPIC and the Times/USC.

In their methodological descriptions, robopollsters admit that women are much more likely to participate in their surveys than men, and that older voters are included in their samples in far greater numbers than young or middle age voters. Because their initial data are less representative, robopolls need to make fairly major adjustments to their raw data to bring their samples into balance with the characteristics of the larger voting population.

By contrast, the unadjusted raw data obtained by traditional telephone pollsters more closely reflect the actual population of voters they are polling. While The Field Poll does make weighting adjustments to its samples, the adjustments tend to be small and have a modest impact on the overall poll’s statewide findings.

For example, The Field Poll’s final pre-election poll this year showed both Democrats Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer ahead of their Republican opponents in this year’s races for governor and U.S. Senate by eight to 10 percentage points in both our unweighted and weighted samples. The main impact that the weighting or sample adjustments was to align the various subgroups to known characteristics of the voter population. Importantly, they did not have much impact or significantly alter the overall statewide preference distributions initially found in the survey.

Despite their sampling drawbacks, the better robopollsters are able to transform the survey information they obtain into reasonable pre-election poll estimates by developing a sophisticated model of the probable electorate and adjusting their sample to conform to its characteristics. Because of this, I view the better robopollsters more as skilled modelers of the electorate than as high quality survey researchers.

But because of their need to construct models to determine the overall shape of the probable electorate rather than rely on actual survey data or information about each respondent’s voting record to determine this, the modeling itself can create potential problems.

For example, the determination of how many Democrats and Republicans to include in a sample is closely tied to voting preferences. When making this determination the robopollster takes great liberties in deciding who is ahead and by how much, since even a slight change in the partisan distribution of the sample will affect the preference distributions in most election contests.

This is perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the robopoll method, since it confers robopollsters with greater latitude in influencing the outcomes of their poll measures, and risks either introducing systematic biases into their poll.

Some robopollsters admit to taking into account a state’s voting history, national trends and recent polling to construct their partisan weighting targets. This means that the proportions of Democrats and Republicans allocated to their sample are derived from subjective judgments about the historical and prevailing political conditions in a given state and from other polls already conducted in that political jurisdiction.

It would be revealing to be able to compare a robopoll’s unadjusted and adjusted poll distributions in their pre-election preference measures. I suspect that if this information were available, it would reveal wide differences between the two estimates.

Because robopolls make subjective judgments when establishing their estimates of the composition of the likely electorate, this method can easily produce an entire array of different possible survey results. It is left to the robopollster to choose which result or political reality fits their own expectations at that moment in time. This is not only dangerous, it has the long-term effect of undermining public confidence in the objectivity of the entire public opinion polling process.

Concerns about the future of polling: As more pre-election polls employ the robopolling method, my fear is that they will crowd out the other higher quality polls that are being conducted, leaving the media and the public with a sometimes confusing batch of pre-election poll estimates to sort through.

This is not to say that better robopollsters are manipulating their poll results for their own ends. Some are trying to make up for the deficiencies in their initial survey samples. For example, at least one robopollster extended their data collection over a longer three-day period and experimented with the use of live interviewers to call separate samples of cell phone listings in an attempt to fill the gap of voters only reachable by cell phone.

Yet the other problems inherent in their survey approach remain. This is why I continue to view the results of most of them cautiously.

Polling on Prop. 19: One other controversy between robopolls and traditional telephone polls surfaced this year in California during the Prop. 19, marijuana legalization initiative campaign.

When polling this year on Prop. 19, the traditional telephone pollsters fielded a number of inquiries from reporters and others questioning the reliability of live interviewer telephone polls conducted on a controversial topic like marijuana. The theory they presented was that because robopolls avoid direct human interactions when conducting their polls, voters felt less constrained about admitting their true opinions on Prop. 19.

Most of the literature on interviewer effects on sensitive topics research like marijuana relate to people being asked about their own personal behaviors that might be embarrassing or socially undesirable. This, in my opinion, doesn’t apply when polling on a policy issue like Prop. 19, which simply asks voters their opinions about an initiative to legalize marijuana’s sale and use.

At the time, I challenged those questioning the accuracy of live interviewer polls on the topic to revisit the issue after the election. Well, the results are in and the live interviewer polls like Field, PPIC and the Times/USC polls were generally closer to the final vote on Prop. 19 than the robopolls.

In their final pre-election surveys the state’s three leading traditional telephone polls showed Prop. 19 trailing by an average of 8 percentage points. By contrast, the average of the two final pre-election robopolls conducted in California showed Prop. 19 trailing by just 4.5 percentage points. According to the California Secretary of State, with nearly nine million votes counted and more than one million votes yet to be counted, California voters were rejecting Prop. 19 by eight percentage points, 54% to 46%.

I hope this puts that theory to rest.

Mark DiCamillo is Senior Vice President, Field Research Corporation and Director of The Field Poll

LAT/USC Poll: Climate Change Bites eMeg’s Backside

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Long ago, Calbuzz suggested that Meg Whitman made a strategic blunder during the Republican primary when, in an effort to look conservative enough to beat Steve Poizner, she came out swinging against AB 32, California’s pioneering greenhouse-gas reduction law. Our point was simple: she had alienated independent and moderate voters who tilt the balance of power in California because, for them, protecting the environment is an important cause.

Whitman tried to soften her outspoken objections to AB32 as a job killer by meekly coming out (after much dithering and poll-taking, we suspect) against Prop. 23 – the Texas oil-company sponsored measure to essentially kill AB32. But the gambit didn’t work.

According to the LATimes/USC survey, which finds Brown leading Whitman 52-39% among likely voters, Prop. 23 is losing 32-48%. And there is, USC Political Science Professor Jane Junn tells the Calbuzz Green Eyeshade Division, a significant correlation (.37) between a vote on the measure and a vote preference for Jerry Brown. We can’t say for certain whether the dog is wagging the tail or if the tail is wagging the dog, but look at this:

Of voters supporting Prop. 23 – that is, who want to kill the state’s climate change law – 32% are voting for Brown and 57% are for Whitman. But among those opposed to Prop. 23 – the much larger group that would retain the law — 69% are for Brown and 25% are for Whitman. An opponent of Prop. 23 is nearly three times more likely to vote for Brown than for Whitman.

Likewise, among Whitman voters, Prop. 23 is winning 46-31%. But among the much larger group of Brown voters, Prop. 23 is losing by a crushing 20-64%. A Brown voter is more than three times more likely to vote against Prop. 23 than for it.

The only voters in favor of Prop. 23 are Republicans (43-34%), conservatives (51-29%) and those Whitman voters. Every other major demographic bloc is opposed to the measure, with independents (29-55%) and moderates (24-53%) looking a lot like Democrats (23-58%) and liberals (15-73%) on the issue.

Prop. 19, which would legalize marijuana for personal use, appears to be going down in flames, training now 39-51% in the LAT/USC survey. The only people for it are Democrats (51-41%), Independents (48-37%), liberals (66-27%) and – lo and behold – Brown voters (52-42%). Of course, younger voters favor the measure more than older voters, but there aren’t enough of them to affect the outcome.

Too bad for Brown. Those who favor the measure prefer Brown over Whitman 66-25% while those opposed to Prop 19 favor Whitman 50-41% over Brown. “Dope Smokers for Jerry”  hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, despite Democratic Party Chairman John Burton’s prediction that pot would be the key to Democratic victory. Maybe that’s partly due to the fact that the Attorney General opposes the measure.

The LAT/USC survey also finds Prop. 25, which would lower the threshold for passing the state budget to a majority from two-thirds, is well ahead – 58-28%. That’s almost certainly due to the add-ons like denying legislators their pay and per diem every day a budget is late. But no matter, it appears in strong shape – winning in every demographic category, including a slight lead among Republicans and conservatives.

BTW, according to Professor Junn, Prop. 25 also correlates significantly with a vote for Brown (.35) as does Prop. 19 (.28). We just can’t say for certain which is the driver and which is along for the ride.

The Democratic firm Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint conducted the poll for the Los Angeles Times and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, calling landlines and cellphones Oct. 13-20.  A random sample of 1,501 California registered voters were called, including an oversample of Latino respondents for a total of 460 Latino interviews. The survey identified 922 likely voters for whom the margin of error is +/- 3.2%. The margin of error for Latinos is +/- 4.6%.

To be included in the likely voter sample, respondents must have voted in 2006 and 2008, said they were “almost certain” or “probably” going to vote in 2010 and rated their enthusiasm about voting as 5 or higher on a 10-point scale. Those who registered since the 2008 election were included if they met the enthusiasm standard and said they are “almost certain” to vote this time around. Likely voters also included those said they have already have voted by mail — about 7% of voters surveyed.

PS: For an important update on how California voters regard immigration, see Cathy Decker’s article in the ByGodLATimes. For the Times report on the propositions, click here.

Swap Meet: Drugs, Money & the Underwear Bandit

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Today Calbuzzard and Chief Editorial Pen Stabber Tom Meyer buzz kills the state Democratic party which, for reasons that remain hazy, made a hash of their chance last weekend to endorse the Prop. 19 initiative to legalize pot.

Following the half-baked example of Bill Clinton, members of the party’s executive committee wasted the political advice of chairman John Burton, who suggested their support would turn on the key cohort of younger voters.

Instead they honored the joint wishes of the Dem’s geezer headliners, would-be governor Jerry Brown and Senator Barbara Boxer, who found the idea a total bummer.

Call now while supplies last: Calbuzzers interested in owning a full color print of a Meyer cartoon can email Tom at tom@meyertoons.com .

Hits and misses: If there’s one thing that makes our blood boil, it’s the legions of adolescent journalists who find it amusing to make puerile jokes about the burning issues raised by Prop. 19.

That’s why we were delighted to learn that Slate has launched “Cash Crop,” a new blog focused on the serious business and political economy issues of marijuana, written by Bay Area journalist Dan Mitchell:

Over the past few months, whenever I’ve told people about my idea for a blog covering the business and political economy of marijuana, I’ve gotten one of two responses: They either said it was a great idea or they put on their best stoner accent and said something along the lines of “Ohhh, duuuuude. That sounds bitchin’.”

… the different responses highlight what I think could be a major challenge—making people realize that neither this blog nor the subject it covers is a lark or a joke. Though I will always try to make it fun, Cash Crop is a serious blog about a serious business.

How serious? Marijuana is one of the top cash crops in the United States (by some measures it is the top cash crop). So why is there so little coverage of this business, as a business? Consider that California is veritably peppered with medical-marijuana facilities, as other states increasingly are. Or consider that marijuana sales generate about $15 billion of revenue a year in California alone—twice as much as the state’s dairy industry.

eMeg’s not a candidate, she’s a trend: When last we saw NY Timesman Michael Luo, he was exposing the $1 million sweetheart deal Mike Murphy scored with the eMeg Empire; now comes Luo, with colleague Damien Cave, to offer the first quantitative analysis of the growing trend of zillionaires running for office:

Call it the Great Recession paradox. Even as voters express outrage at the insider culture of big bailouts and bonuses, their search for political saviors has led them to this: a growing crowd of über-rich candidates, comfortable in boardrooms and country clubs, spending a fortune to remake themselves into populist insurgents…

Through just the second quarter of the year, at least 42 House and Senate candidates — 7 Democrats and 35 Republicans — in 23 states had already donated $500,000 or more of their own money to their campaigns, according to the most recent data available from the Center for Responsive Politics. That list does not even include governors’ races, and the roster promises to grow as the campaign season progresses and spending escalates.

Impressive numbers at first glance, but consider: if each of the 49 congressional candidates cited as spending at least $500K of their own cash actually spent $1 million each, it would be only half of what Our Meg has already forked out on her own, for what communications director Tucker Bounds likes to call the “movement” backing her play for governor.

All power to the people!

Press Clips: Josh Richman deserves combat pay just for staying awake – but came back with all you need to know about the Prop. 23 debate.

Eric Alterman’s door stop piece on why we can’t have a progressive president is worth the two weeks it takes to read.

Who ducked the media first – the chickens or the Meg?

Wonder how David Brooks knows so much about narcissism?

Krauthammer does too!

Jon Meacham gets his swirl on: Why Newsweek is failing, Chapter 37.

Don’t try walking home drunk alert: surrealistic sidewalks.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Oklahoma, OK!

3-Dot Cheap Shots: DiFi, eMeg, iCarly and Krusty

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Buzz kill: Calbuzz is scratching our collective head at the sight of the MSM prominently displaying stories about Senator Dianne Feinstein’s declaration of opposition to Proposition 19, the November ballot measure to legalize pot: Why exactly is this news?

From her earliest days in politics, DiFi’s political antennae have always been hyper-attuned to the slightest possibility that somewhere, someone might be having fun.

Her nickname around City Hall was “Goody Two Shoes,” and one citizen of San Francisco’s gay community famously summed up her well-earned school marm reputation:  “Dianne Feinstein doesn’t care who you sleep with, as long as you’re in bed by eleven o’clock.”

The Senior Senator from California, in fact, first made a name for herself in the ‘60s by carrying on a one-woman crusade against the production and presentation of X-rated movies in S.F., where entrepreneurs such as the infamous Mitchell Brothers were then pioneering the genre with aesthetic and commercial successes like “Behind the Green Door.”

The controversy Feinstein generated greatly raised her profile, at a time she was preparing to launch her first bid for office, a fabulously successful effort that made her the first woman elected president of the Board of Supervisors.

But her anti-smut campaign did not earn unanimous acclaim in Baghdad by the Bay: the late Charles de Young Thieriot, then publisher of the Chronicle, threw her out of his office when she came in to demand he stop running ads for adult theaters in the paper, while Charles McCabe,  a cranky and literate libertarian scribbler for the Chron, bashed her as a prudish busybody in a series of columns headlined, “Dianne Faces Life.”

What really moved Mrs. Feinstein to her little adventure, and her later demand that right-mindedness be enacted on all of us is something you don’t have to be a big brain to figure out. The real reason lies in the hearts and minds of a segment of elderly Irish biddies and Jewish mothers and Italian mama mias and German hausfraus. These ladies, most of whom are mothers, are threatened by porno and take an awfully strong line on the same subject. This they communicate one way or another, and often through priests and rabbis who have a vested interest in sin, to their duly elected representatives of whom Mrs. Feinstein is one. And conscientious.

The way to prevent the men from indulging their brutish natures is to pass laws, and more laws, and still more laws, to keep their pants firmly zipped at all times, except when the population explosion is to be assisted.

Roll ‘em and smoke ‘em Dianne.

eMeg to the ER stat: Here’s another thing we don’t understand: Why Meg Whitman keeps picking fights with the California Nurses’ Association.

Having already erected a new web site exclusively dedicated to brawling with the nurses’ union, and sent a personal letter to every member of the CNA, Her Megness announced yesterday that she is “forming an advisory board of nurses to advise her on issues during the campaign.”

The “Meg Whitman Nurses’ Advisory Board.” Got a real ring to it, no?

For their part, the nurses have announced a big demonstration and town meeting in Whitman’s home town of Atherton Thursday night, which is scheduled to include a stop at eMeg’s estate. So it looks like the baffling battle will only escalate.

Yeah, we get that Team eMeg has so much money they can afford a whole separate campaign against the nurses, while simultaneously running against Jerry Brown. But what’s the political play here exactly?

We consulted with Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, our staff psychiatrist and chief of medicine at Calbuzz Memorial Hospital and Outpatient Veterinary Clinic, who offered five possible reasons:

a–She’s still bitter that she didn’t get into medical school because organic chemistry kicked her butt.

b-If you’re going to start busting unions why not begin with one of the most popular in the state?

c-Murphy’s still pissed the nurses rolled him in his failed initiatives campaign for Arnold.

d-eMeg feels a special connection to the helping profession because her husband is a famous neurosurgeon (memo to Meg: don’t count on nurses being overly enamored of a guy named Dr. Harsh).

e- She really doesn’t like that whole “Queen Meg” thing.

Calbuzz sez: b) and e).

Grisly grizzlies: Setting the bar higher than ever for Republican whack job women, Nevada Tea Partier Sharron Angle has announced that God is behind her challenge to Senator Harry Reid,  a development that caused Calbuzz considerable concern that our own Hurricane Carly Fiorina may be falling way behind in the female division of the knuckledragger sweepstakes.

So we were delighted to learn from the Orange County Register that iCarly was recently blessed with a campaign contribution from Sarah Palin,  the Queen High Wingnut of Amazon Republicanism herself, who’s traveling the country on a mission to elect battalions of what she calls “Mama Grizzlies.”

As she trumpets Palin’s personal endorsement, Carly appears to believe that Screwball Sarah’s seal of approval will win hearts and minds throughout the state, which is only one of many big differences she has with her rival, incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer, whose campaign is working to drive traffic to a web video examining the Republican sisterhood of the traveling pants suits.

While Whitman has so far cautiously kept her distance from the tenets of Palinism, Neanderthal Carly has bought the whole package, eagerly embracing the right-wing’s positions  on abortion rights, climate change, gun control, immigration and offshore oil drilling, among others.

So completely has Fiorina festooned herself as a “pro-life feminist,” that one prominent anti-choice leader recently told our pal Carla Marinucci, that Carly “now stands tall alongside Palin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, in a pantheon of new female political leaders.”

Michele Bachmann. Wow. Makes you proud to be a Californian, doesn’t it?

Historical Footfault: “If there is another $100 million spent on the Republican side, we will have our message,” Jerry Brown told KGO the other day. “Everyone in this state who votes will have more information than they want.”

So when will Krusty and His Band of Merry Guerillas unload their muskets? 

“So we’re holding our fire,” Brown said, although not apparently remembering first-hand. ” If you remember the Battle of Lexington, the American revolutionaries said wait until you see the whites of their eyes before you start firing.”

Except — as most school children know –  if it was said at all, it was said by one of the colonial commanders — Israel Putnam, John Stark, William Prescott or Richard Gridley — at the Battle of Bunker Hill, not the Battle of Lexington.

New: Calbuzz Video, Hit on Meg, Cleveland Curse

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

In today’s installment of Calbuzz Video, multi-media reporter Jennifer Fey serves up her own take on Meg Whitman’s unexpected bump in the polls among Latinos, chatting with Field Pollster Mark DiCamillo and Cal politics guru Henry Brady, and hanging out on the Fourth of July to ask voters what they think about the Megabucks campaign.

For us, Fey’s money quote comes from Brady, Dean of the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, whose commentary carries echoes of the Calbuzz Standard Quantum Limit Theory of campaign finance:

This is a lot more money than we’ve ever seen before…She’s got a lot of money and we don’t know in this territory whether if you spend enough money, you can get such an indelible impression out there that it’s very hard for anybody to turn it around.

As for Jennifer’s question of “how Brown plans to combat Whitman’s war chest,” part of the answer came Friday, when the labor-backed I.E. California Working Families rolled out a new whack on Whitman that doesn’t pull too many punches, from its opening line:

How many lies can Meg Whitman jam into one ad?

The answer, it turns out, is seven, according to Camp Jerry’s interpretation of the analysis performed on eMeg’s last blast at him by Fact Check.org . The pro-Brown I.E’s use of the widely respected truth testing outfit at the University of Pennsylvania as a source to stand up its “lies” charge resulted in the entertaining spectacle of highly caffeinated eMeg spokeshuman Sarah Pompei  sputtering and spluttering a 141-word stream of consciousness response brimming with non-sequiturs and shaggy dog run-on sentences.

Fact checkers did not come to Jerry Brown’s defense on fiscal issues while he was Mayor of Oakland or Governor of the state (huh?)…During his career, Brown has championed Sacramento’s philosophy of raising taxes to the tune of billions of dollars, including personally signing into law a $2 billion-plus gas tax increase before he left the state reeling with a deficit and, as the media described it, “on the brink of bankruptcy.”

Jeez, for $100 million you’d think they could afford to hire a copy editor.

Roll ‘em and smoke ‘em: The new Field Poll showing Proposition 19, the legalize and tax marijuana initiative, trailing, is nothing but a buzz kill, sez Calbuzzer Barstool Blondie:

I didn’t get into the weeds on the methodology but… the stoner vote is going to turn out big. They’re not going to show up in the polls in enough numbers to make a dent but may well do so on election day. There hasn’t been another ballot measure in a long time so poised to rile the youngsters out of civic apathy.

Sounds like a match made in heaven for John Burton. Calbuzz is betting, however, that there’s going to be a lot of people who aren’t going to admit to pollsters that a) they ever smoked dope and b) that they’re going to vote to make it legal.

King James of Clowns: With deep roots in the Buckeye State, the Calbuzz Department of Professional Sports Haplessness and Home Town Hopelessness was born, raised and beat down broken hearted by Willie Mays’ catch of Vic Wertz’s drive to center, Michael Jordan shooting over Craig Ehlo, the Drive, the Fumble and the Great Satan Art Modell, among countless other depresso ray events leading to a lifetime of fan despair.

So we take this whole LeBron James to Miami thing real personal, and find our only solace in the bitter words of Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston.

James is…the great player who left unfinished business after quitting on his team on the court and left unanswered questions by quitting on his city off it….

By waiting to leave until after his high-profile basketball camp in his hometown of Akron, by surrounding himself there with current and former Cavs teammates, and by scheduling a one-hour national cable “event” just to exploit this city’s suffering, he hit the trifecta in deplorable behavior.

He had before invoked all the connotations of home, only to leave it. He had before summoned an image of family, only to reject it. He had before cherished loyalty, only to betray it. He wears “Family” and “Loyalty” tattoos on his torso. Dermabrasion, please. The sooner, the better…

Because home is gone. Because it’s personal here too.

Alas, the Curse of Rocky Colavito lives .

Update: Charles Apple at Visual Editors.com has a terrific collection of front page images showing how LeBron’s decision was portrayed in a batch of daily papers, including an instant classic from the Plain Dealer, where our old friend Susan Goldberg reigns supreme.