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Posts Tagged ‘Public Policy Institute of California’



Memo to Pundits; Carly Comes Clean; Don’t Miss TV

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Jeez, it’s not even Labor Day and your austerity-based Calbuzz pundits are already deep in despair from listening to East Coast pundits-for-hire punditize for big bucks about California’s campaigns, as if they actually knew something about the state.

But we don’t complain.

However, we do suggest that rather than endlessly spouting superficial crapchurn, the Beltway Big Thinkers educate themselves about the not-so-Golden State, starting with the Public Policy Institute of California’s latest set of profiles on the electorate.

Wherein the savants will discover that:

– Democrats comprise 44% of likely voters, Republicans 35% and independents 18%.

– Six in 10 voters are either liberal (31%) or moderate (29%) while just 40% are conservative.

– About four in 10 independents (39%) lean Democrat and about three in 10 each lean Republican or toward neither party.

– Latinos, of whom 65% are Democrats, comprise 18% of the likely electorate and two-thirds of them are either moderate (33%) or liberal (32%) while about one third are conservative.

Here’s the nut graph in the PPIC report:

Because neither of the major political parties has a majority of California’s registered voters, independents are influential in statewide elections. For example, in the previous gubernatorial election, 54% of independents in our post-election survey said they voted for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. But in the 2008 presidential election, most independents (59%) said they supported Democrat Barack Obama. In each case, the outcome reflected the choice of the majority of independents.

This explains in part why Calbuzz has consistently argued that Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina’s opposition to 1) a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and 2) California’s pioneering climate-change law, AB 32 (which polling shows independents favor), represent a substantive problem for the Republican candidates.

On the other hand, more voters now prefer lower taxes and fewer state services (48%) compared to those who prefer higher taxes and more services (43%) – a potential problem for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer.

California elections remain a battle for the moderate and independent voters who have only loose ties to either Democratic or Republican orthodoxy.

As the unerring-instinct-for-the-obvious cable TV swamis endlessly repeat,   polling shows that the economy is the No. 1 issue among voters; that would be what you call news that stays news.

But we remain convinced that for many voters in the crucial precincts of the moderate middle, once they identify a candidate as extreme on certain threshold issues – like choice, environment and legalization of immigrants – they don’t care what their position is on the economy or anything else. They’re off the table.

Elephant gives birth to mouse: Did Carly Fiorina burn the midnight oil after Wednesday night’s debate, cramming to get up to speed on Proposition 23, the oil-company sponsored initiative to roll back California’s greenhouse gas emissions law?

Through 15 rounds of excruciatingly annoying avoidance, Fiorina refused, both in the debate and in a brief press conference that followed, to state a clear position on Prop. 23, even though it was clear to every person who hadn’t fallen sound asleep that she supported the measure, given her endless attacks on the landmark climate change legislation the thing would repeal.

“I’m focusing on a national energy policy,” she solemnly informed debate moderator Randy Shandobil, when he pleaded with her to answer a simple yes or no question about her stance on the measure.

So on Friday, after being roundly mocked for her bush league hemming and hawing (not to mention bashed on the air by John and Ken, our favorite L.A. radio knuckledraggers ) Fiorina finally put out a release about her  positions on the ballot props.

Turns out she supports Prop. 23. Stop the presses Maude…oh, never mind…

Which raises the question: Why all the game playing Wednesday night? Why not just say she’s for Prop. 23 and be done with it, instead of creating a pointless kerfuffle about all her wiggling around? Six possible reasons:

a) She was confused. The Prop. 23 question didn’t come up in debate prep, and she was so tightly wound that her dyslexia kicked in so she couldn’t remember whether Prop. 23 suspended AB 32 or Prop. 32 suspended AB 23.

b) She was being a control freak. Under pressure, her OCD kicked in and she thought it would be wayyyy too messy to disclose her positions on the other eight props in the press release aimed at the all-important Saturday papers, having already let the cat out of the bag on the big one.

c) She was being calculating. Anxious about coverage describing how she’s gotten so far out on the right that she’ll have trouble attracting independents, she thought maybe she could finesse the issue.

d) She was being stupid. See c) .

e) She was conflicted. She really, really wanted to take some time reflecting and pondering the complexities and nuances of the measure. (Oy/ed.)

f) She hadn’t been told what she thought yet. The Wilson-Khachigian axis was still determining the final “band aid” spin to explain her opposition.

Calbuzz sez:  f).

In case you (somehow) missed it: Here is the must-see video of Arizona Governor and chief nitwit Jan Brewer melting down in a televised debate  (h/t Jason Linkins).

Second City’s imagined take at how the deal went down is here and Craig Ferguson’s sound effects version (warning: not for those averse to fart jokes) is here.

Hard to believe, but Brewer actually did herself a favor with that world-class Bambi-in-the-high-beams performance, as it distracted attention from her much more serious screw-up of excitedly telling the world about beheadings in the Arizona desert that,well, actually didn’t happen.

"Off with their heads!"

For good measure, you can find Brewer’s dig-yourself-in-deeper comments that 1) she only did the debate because she wanted to get public campaign funding; 2) doesn’t like “adversarial” situations; 3) won’t participate in any more debates here.

9/11 Fishwrap: iCarly, Prince Gavin, Happy Goo-Goos

Friday, September 11th, 2009

carlyfistCarly of Arabia: Here at Calbuzz, our Department of Erudition’s Division of Bibliographic Resources and Recreational Imbibing maintains one of the world’s most extensive databases of news and information sources.

So it was that we happened to peruse some archival reports of AME Info, the widely-known and widely-respected provider of business information in and about the Middle East. Wherein we once again were beset by questions about what former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina knew, and when she knew it, about HP conducting business with Iran, despite a U.S. ban on trade with that, um, controversial nation.

Loyal readers will recall our kudos to Mike Zapler of the San Jose Mercury News, who recently reported on how H-P used a Middle East distributor called Redington Gulf to sell “hundreds of millions of dollars worth of printers and other products” to Iran during the leadership tenure of Fiorina, who has launched a bid to capture the Republican nomination for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat. In his piece, a spokeswoman stated that Fiorina was “unaware of any sales to Iran during her time at the company.”

Yet smack in the middle of Hurricane Carly’s 1999-2005 stint as CEO, on Oct. 5, 2003, AME Info reported that Redington Gulf had become H-P’s first Mideast distributor to surpass $100 million in transactions through its offices in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, “Iran and Egypt.”

“The seeds of the Redington/Hewlett-Packard relationship in the Middle East were sowed six years ago for one market – Iran – and one product group,” the story says (itals ours). “Today it boasts of covering the entire region and across multiple product groups and support services.”

redingtonThe piece even includes a happy photo of five smiling fellas – identified as “the management of Redington Gulf FZE and seniors from HP” – joining hands to cut a cake in celebration of “this milestone achievement.” And some milestone it was: HP in 2003 named Redington their “Wholesaler of the Year,” according to the distributor’s web site.

But Beth Miller, speaking for Fiorina’s nascent campaign, insisted that HP was “not doing business in Iran at all” while the wannabe Senator was CEO.

“To her knowledge, during her tenure, HP never did business in Iran, and fully complied with all U.S. sanctions and laws,” Miller told Calbuzz. She also cited recent comments by Redington CEO Raj Shankar, also reported by AME Info (take that CB!), stating that his company sells HP printers and supplies to “approved Iranian customers” – who aren’t in Iran.

“Redington Gulf does not engage in any commercial activity in Iran,” Shankar said. “The company does not conduct sales, stocking or import activities inside Iran, nor does it transact payments from any customer or bank in Iran. The business model is such that Redington does not take the product physically to Iran. Redington fulfills those products (in United Arab Emirates), and it is then for the customer to take the product into Iran and engage in local commerce.”

Bottom line: When Fiorina formally enters the race later this year, we foresee rampant curiosity about HP’s 2003 “Wholesaler of the Year.”

[After-the-fact credit note: Although it was suggested to us by someone else before he used it, David Dayen over at Calitics was the first writer we know of to deploy the label  "iCarly".]

Two faces of reform: Good-government reformers will take one look at the new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California and squeal with delight about the finding that 58% of likely voters say it would be a good idea to have a split roll property tax system – in which commercial properties gets taxed at current market value, instead of  being limited in the same way as residential property, which has been the case since the passage of Proposition 13.

And the goo-goos will likely also get a thrill up their legs about the 54% who like the idea of replacing the two-thirds vote requirement with a 55-percent majority rule for the legislature to pass a state budget.

They may even get goose bumps about the 48% of voters who’d support replacing the two-thirds vote requirement with a 55-percent majority standard to pass local special taxes.

But before falling into a total swoon, these good folks should duly note that the same statewide survey found: 58% of likely voters say Proposition 13 is still a good thing; 64% still favor term limits; 65% would limit annual state spending increases; and 55% say laws passed by initiative are probably better than those passed by the legislature and governor.

In other words, California voters like the idea of major changes, but when it comes to actually making changes – don’t bet the house.

gavindash

Two faces of Gavin: SF Mayor Gavin Newsom was sharp as a tack in an interview about his campaign for governor on KCRA’s “Which Way LA” Thursday.

With host Warren Olney flinging tough questions, Prince Gavin showed he can handle serious subjects in crisp sound bites – laying out the key constitutional revisions he’d like to see, his top priorities as governor, where he’d look for new revenue (tobacco tax, oil severance tax and vehicle license fees) and why he believes he was right to lead the way in standing up for gay marriage.

It’s clear that by routinely taking questions from the public and reporters  (as opposed to, oh say, Meg Whitman, just to pick a name out of the air) Newsom has honed his campaign skills. As Calbuzz told Olney on his post-interview segment, Newsom’s political problem is not one  of presentation; rather, he needs to convince enough donors that he’s a smart investment to put together the resources to run a serious campaign. And that’s a tough sell because Attorney General Jerry Brown – who’s about 20 points ahead of Newsom in serious polling — is especially popular with older voters. And about 68% of the June 2010 primary electorate is expected to be 50 and older.

But we gotta say – he gives good interview.

gavinpensiveOn the other hand: SF Weekly presents a decidedly unflattering portrait of Newsom in the Calbuzz Must-Read of the Week. Pulling more than its share of the local media’s load of responsibility for enlightening the rest of us about Prince Gavin, the paper published a terrific 4,622-word profile by Ashley Harrell, who interviewed boatloads of former advisers, consultants and supporters:

“Seek out the political operatives who once worked closely with Newsom, and you’ll find that a number have soured on the mayor. Ask them why, and you’ll be bombarded with his alleged character flaws. Among them: ‘thin-skinned,’ ‘disloyal,’ ‘friendless,’ ‘joyless,’ ‘Machiavellian,’ ‘craven,’ and ‘empty.’ One will tell you that Eric Jaye was ‘the best-paid babysitter in California.’ Several will diagnose Newsom with an acute case of narcissism.

“‘He’s probably the worst mayor in modern history,’ said Jack Davis, a strategist who has worked on the mayoral campaigns of Newsom, Willie Brown, and Frank Jordan. ‘I pity this poor state if lightning should strike and this cad becomes governor amidst the problems that the state has. He’d have a nervous breakdown. There’s no there there.’”

Must read II: The indefatigable Mark Z. Barabak offered up a considerably brisker profile of Newsom that, in a series of deft strokes, also cut to the core of what bothers lots of folks in San Francisco about their mayor – and explains why Brown runs ahead of Prince Gavin in SF.

“Still, to a striking degree, some of Newsom’s biggest backers — in civic groups and policy circles, among political activists and campaign donors — have in the last few years become some of the mayor’s sharpest critics. In a series of interviews, they expressed disappointment and accused Newsom, in words oft-repeated, of focusing more on self-aggrandizement and personal publicity than solving the city’s problems.

‘Once he’s said it and it’s printed in the newspapers, it’s done in his mind,’ said Jim Ross, a political consultant who ran Newsom’s 2003 campaign for mayor. ‘Then it’s on to the next big announcement.’”

This just in – U.S. land mass growing exponentially: A headline on the Huffpost home page last week read thusly: “Hundreds of states shut down to save money.”

Just Because ‘Survey Says…’ Don’t Make It So

Monday, August 31st, 2009

This article was also published today in the Los Angeles Times.

gavinjerry

Daily Kos, the influential liberal web site, recently released a poll they commissioned that found that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was just nine points behind Attorney General Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary race for governor.

Within minutes, the San Francisco Chronicle posted a blog item saying the poll showed  the race was “narrowing,” comparing it to a June survey, conducted by a different company, which gave Brown a 20-point lead over Newsom. The item was quickly picked up and posted by Rough & Tumble, California’s premier political news aggregator. Then it was reported and re-blasted by The Fix at the Washington Post, one of the top political sites in the country. Within 12 hours, this characterization of California’s race for governor became received wisdom.

There was only one problem with this wisdom: it was wrong.

The incident illustrates how political misinformation and misinterpretation can be more viral than the truth in the Internet News Age, as reporting on polls pulses through the electronic highway, launched by news organizations with little time to evaluate and sift the quality of research. In recent weeks, a series of California political surveys have produced a cacophony of often conflicting analysis, opinion and reporting that served to confuse readers and distort political perceptions.

For example, comparing and measuring the Daily Kos poll, conducted by Research 2000, against the previous poll – done with a completely different methodology by Moore Methods Research of Sacramento – created a false equivalency. In fact, a recent follow-up poll by poll director James Moore, who has long experience in California, found that, far from tightening, Brown’s lead over Newsom has grown to 29 percentage points.

A poll’s methodology – including the sample size, method of selection and phrasing of questions– is crucial. The Kos survey, for example, used random digit dialing to reach California adults. To identify them as “likely voters,” pollsters asked respondents several questions, including whether they considered themselves Democrats or Republicans. But  identifying 600 likely voters didn’t provide the number of Democrats and Republicans statistically necessary to measure the primaries, so pollsters called more people until they had 400 self-identified Republicans and 400-self-identified Democrats. Then, as they put it, “Quotas were assigned to reflect the voter registration of distribution by county.”

After this statistical slicing and dicing, the survey produced a final sample of alleged likely voters that included 18% under age 30 and 19% age 60 and older. But according to a real-world screen of likely voters — based on actual voting histories — the June 2010  primary electorate is expected to include about 6% people under 30 and 38% people over 60.

These issues alone would be enough to distort the state of the Brown-Newsom race. But will any of them surface when the next reporter Googles the California governor’s race, looking for standings? Not a chance. Why does it matter? Because misreporting of  polls  allows campaign spinners not only to boost or suppress candidate fundraising, but also to manipulate news coverage frame campaign narratives and shape public perceptions.

The Kos poll is far from an isolated incident, as misreading and misinterpretation of survey research have become endemic on the Web. Consider the following:

A recent poll by the widely-respected Public Policy Institute of California, for example, reported that 53% of registered voters now favor more drilling off the California coast, a finding trumpeted by supporters of the policy. But respondents were asked their view on drilling as one of several approaches “to address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil sources,” a question — as Calbuzz explained — likely to elicit a much different response than one about the environmental impacts of drilling.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported that only 43% of those surveyed supported a “public option” for health care reform – an apparently dramatic swing from its previous poll, which found 76% support for the policy. Upon closer examination, though, it turned out pollsters in the first survey asked people if they wanted the “choice” of a public option. In the later poll, they omitted the key word “choice,” asking simply whether respondents favored a public option. When Survey USA a short time later used the original language, 77% of respondents said they favored the public option, confirming the finding in the first NBC/WSJ survey.

Some political analysts, citing an increase in the number and proportion of “independent” voters who decline to affiliate with a major party, have argued that California is becoming a post-partisan “purple state.” But the recent release of 30 years of surveys by the Field Poll showed how wrong this analysis is. On a host of ideologically divisive issues, like abortion rights and same-sex marriage, independents have much the same attitudes as Democrats, keeping California a very blue state.

As established news organizations increasingly cut costs, first-rate, independent, non-partisan polling is becoming scarcer. So polling stories should be viewed by readers– and voters– with great skepticism, and news outlets should use greater care in analyzing and disseminating survey data. Reducing political views to a number does not necessarily make them scientific. Caveat emptor.


Why Indie Voters Don’t Make California Purple

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Purple2In recent years, some pollsters, pundits and consultants have pointed to declines in partisan voter registration, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two elections, to question California’s reputation as a left-leaning “blue state” and to argue that it is in fact a post-partisan “purple state.”

Exhibit A, for the post-partisan advocates, is the voter roll: Democratic registration stands at 45%, down 12% since 1978; Republican registration is 31%, down 3%, and independents now represent 20% of the voters, up 12%. These data, it is argued, prove that partisanship is waning and California is evolving into a bastion of independence.

Here at the Calbuzz Repository of Analysis and Policy, we’ve never bought the neo-kumbaya thesis. It’s long been our view that while political parties, like other large institutions –- corporations, unions, metro newspapers, etc. –- have become atomized and decentralized in the modern era, political behavior is pretty much like it’s always been.

And the Field Poll’s release of a new study of 30 years of voting patterns last week offers further evidence that advocates for the post-partisan theory  misread our history and attitudes. While Field’s data confirm the long-term trend of voters increasingly bypassing both parties to register as independent declines-to-state, their analysis also shows that these independents reliably think and vote like Democrats most of the time.

Consider, for example, voter attitudes on same-sex marriage – one of the most incendiary issues in California politics. Back in 1977, Democrats were opposed 29-63%, Republicans were opposed 30-65% and independents and others were opposed 38-55%. Three decades later – in 2009 – Republicans have hardened their opposition to 23-68%. But Democrats have flipped their position to 64-30% in favor and so have independents — to 57-38% in favor.

Likewise on abortion rights, another divisive issue. Back in 1975, a narrow majority of California voters approved of abortion rights, with Republicans in favor 50-44%, Democrats at 52-43% and independents at 59-34%. By 2006, 70% of voters overall favored abortion rights and the big movement came among Democrats, now 82-10% on the issue and independents at 73-14%. Republicans’ attitude on the issue moved only slightly, to 55-40% in favor.

As Mark DiCamillo and Merv Field explained in the Field Poll release, public attitudes about death and taxes haven’t moved much, but on social issues like same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia,  “California voters, especially Democrats, have become more socially tolerant” over the past three decades. What’s important in the numbers is that independents – while there are more of them – function for all intents and purposes as if they were unregistered Democrats.

The purple state thesis was stated perhaps most forcefully –- and mistakenly — by GOP consultant and former Schwarzenegger communications director Adam Mendelsohn during last year’s presidential elections, when he predicted in September that John McCain was “exactly the kind of Republican” who would be competitive amid the purple hues of the Golden State.

“Certain Republicans are able to win in California and when you have a Republican , like John McCain who has a proven track record of reaching out to independents, reaching out to disaffected Democrats, this is something he built a career on doing. It’s exactly the kind of Republican who poses a real opportunity for us in California,” Mendelsohn told Fox News in September, adding that “California (is) not a red state, or a blue state, but a purple state.”

Others, like Dave Lesher and Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California have made the case more subtly, arguing that because California’s independents combine strains of social liberals and fiscal conservatives, “their vote is up for grabs.”

“Independents’ attitudes, in contrast to that of Democrats and Republicans, don’t fit neatly into traditional liberal and conservative camps,” the two wrote in a LAT op-ed in 2006, adding that this made for “a surprising degree of uncertainty and volatility.”

In fact, it hasn’t. The analysis of fiscal conservatism is based on a single issue: the long-standing strong support of Proposition 13 by voters of every ideological stripe. But by almost any other measure, the notion that independents have their finger to the wind in every election cycle is, we think, not right.

For starters, the rise of independent registration has not been accompanied by the surfacing of any independent political movement. Setting aside the Superintendent of Public Instruction (a nominally non-partisan office) no one has been elected to a statewide office without partisan identification. Beyond that, independents have sided with Democrats most of the time.

– Democrats have won the state in five of the eight presidential elections since 1978 and have made a clean sweep since 1992, when the move towards independent voters started gaining steam. (And no candidate who opposes abortion rights, on which independents have moved left, has won at the top of the ticket, i.e. for president, governor or senator, since George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis here in 1988.)

– Democrats have dominated every single Legislative session except for the anamolus “Contract with America” election of 1994, when Republicans briefly held a majority.

– Democrats have controlled most of the statewide constitutional offices in the last 30 years, buoyed by independent backing.

The purple staters’ best case is the history of the governor’s office which, since Jerry Brown’s re-election in 1978, has been won only twice by a Democrat, who was tossed out before finishing his second term.

But even in the case of the governor, California independents –- with their Democratic-leaning tendencies on social issues and their centrist outlook on fiscal issues –- have for two decades only rewarded the GOP when they have fielded relative moderates like Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  When the GOP has tried to win statewide with one of their red-meat candidates (see: Dan Lungren, 38%, and Bill Simon, 43%) they have been crushed by their inability to win independents.

It is undeniably true that voters are increasingly declining to declare themselves either Democrat or Republican when they register to vote. But scratch an independent in California and you find a voter who leans Democratic.

If the Republicans were to nominate a fiscally moderate, pro-choice, pro-environment candidate who is not seen as virulently anti-immigrant or anti-gay, that candidate might well attract enough independents (and Democrats) to win at the top of the ticket. But it’s unclear that such a candidate can win a Republican primary without first lurching so far to the right as to be poisoned in a general election (recall that Schwarzenegger never had to run in a contested primary, and that Wilson first won nomination after being drafted from the U.S. Senate by GOP leaders as the party’s best hope of ensuring a competitive reapportionment).

The problem with confusing independent voter registration with independent voting behavior is that it leads to the kind of thinking Schwarzenegger’s former communications director engaged in when he told the SF Chronicle in 2008:  “John McCain will give a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama a serious run in any purple state like California.”

Calbuzz sez: Purple staters can argue that ’til they’re blue in the face, but they’ll still end up red-faced with embarrassment.

Polling on Offshore Drilling: Energy or Environment?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

oilrigWhen the Public Policy Institute of California came out last week with its most recent data on public support for offshore oil drilling, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth and some name-calling among certain folks on the environmental left.

PPIC’s poll had found that for the second year in a row, a narrow majority of registered voters (51% in 2008 and 53% in 2009) said they favor allowing oil drilling off the California coast.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, for one, went nuts, attacking PPIC’s poll as worthless and biased, until the attorney general wannabe got hosed down and recalibrated his comments as a critique of the news media.

As we said then, Mark Baldassare of PPIC is an excellent pollster. He’s as unbiased as they come, interested only in gathering data that accurately reflect the public’s outlook on important issues. His survey methodology is first-rate (despite some reservations we have about how he handles cell phones), he has massive resources, a fair-minded approach to public policy research and pristine academic and professional credentials.

Which doesn’t mean his work is flawless. There are some reasons why PPIC’s measure on offshore oil drilling – even if it’s 100% accurate — may not reflect what California voters actually think about offshore oil drilling as an issue in state politics.

With its constellation of questions, PPIC is actually measuring what California voters think about a cluster of policies – asked in a series that is rotated randomly — designed “to address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil sources.” These include: requiring automakers to significantly improve the fuel efficiency of cars sold in this country; building more nuclear power plants; increasing federal funding to develop wind, solar, and hydrogen technology, and allowing more oil drilling off the California coast.

In other words, offshore oil drilling is being examined primarily, not as an  environmental issue – which, in our view, is how most California voters approach it – but as a function of national energy policy.

Even in that context – and here’s where the enviros have an argument – proposing offshore oil drilling as a way to “address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil sources” is a dubious proposition.

As Media Matters for America has previously documented, the Energy Department’s Annual Energy Outlook 2007 found “access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.”

PPIC is not alone in posing offshore oil drilling as a matter of national energy policy. The esteemed Field Poll has done much the same, asking in July 2008, whether “oil companies should be allowed to drill more oil and gas wells in state tidelands along the California coast” as one of the policies for respondents to consider after this introduction:

“I’m going to read some proposals that have been made that attempt to deal with the rising cost of energy. For each, please tell me whether you agree or disagree.”

Interestingly, the Field Poll – which surveys registered voters and includes (at great expense) a large component of respondents who have only cell phones — asked that about the same time PPIC did last summer and came up with a mirrored response: 51% disagreed and 43% agreed – just about an identical flip-flop of the PPIC finding.

It’s unclear why Field and PPIC would have such different results on the offshore oil question. Sampling differences, especially of cell phone-only respondents, the cluster of policies in which offshore oil is included, question order, to name of few factors, could explain the difference. That’s a story for another day.

Despite Nava’s complaint, there’s good reason for both surveys to ask the offshore oil drilling question as they have – in order to track public opinion over time. The shift PPIC has found, for instance, especially among independent voters (since Democrats and Republicans have not changed much) is worth noting when looking at how the issue compares to other policy choices.

But as Baldassare acknowledged, it is possible that the set-up – crafted from national polling questions and designed to measure offshore drilling as a policy option among several others — is problematic in measuring support for offshore oil drilling as a distinctly California political issue.

So what is to be done? We hope that our good friends at PPIC and Field will, in some future poll, ask about offshore oil drilling as an environmental question or as a stand-alone question concerning California public policy to avoid confusion stemming from conflation with attitudes on gas prices or dependence on foreign oil.

Our gut-level suspicion is that a candidate who supports offshore oil drilling in a statewide race does so at his or her own peril. But some hard data would be valuable.