PPIC Survey Exposes CA Voters’ Self-Contradictions


California voters remain resolutely self-conflicted in the face of a $16-billion budget deficit and a pledge by the Legislature to institute automatic cutbacks if new revenues are not forthcoming: maaaybe they’ll approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike measure, but if they should refuse they don’t want the spending cuts needed to balance the budget.

Brown’s November ballot proposal to temporarily raise income taxes on the wealthy and boost sales taxes for everybody is ahead by 56-38% among likely voters but 72% oppose the automatic spending cuts Brown and the Legislature have agreed to. All this according to the latest statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

While majorities of Democrats (53%) and independents (50%) say the state’s budget cap should be fixed with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, about six in 10 Republicans (58%) want mostly spending cuts. Of course about six in 10 Republicans and independents (64%) and 82% of Democrats also oppose the automatic cuts to K-12 public schools needed to balance the budget.

This is the borderline personality disorder that defines California voters. (For more chilling detail, check out “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me,” the popular book on borderlines by Jerold Kreisman and Hal Strauss.)

Whom Do You Trust? For pollster Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC, what underlies voters’ conflicted thinking is a staggering lack of trust in state government. “They feel it’s far away, unresponsive and asking for money that’s not going to be used for what they say it’s going to be used for,” Baldassare told Calbuzz.

According to PPIC, 62% of likely voters say state government wastes a lot of money, including 74% of Republicans, 62% of independents and even 51% of Democrats. More voters trust local government to spend money wisely, but even greater numbers distrust the federal government.

Gov. Brown has long been aware of the stinkeye that voters give state government. It’s why, in his campaign, he pledged to speak honestly about the financial condition of California. Even Brown, however, has projected budgets with rosy assumptions about revenues that have failed to materialize and which now casts Sacramento as a bunch of hostage takers: pay up or suffer the consequences.

According to PPIC, however, voters don’t believe it. (They have good reason: Democrats in the Legislature are already trying to figure ways to avert the automatic cuts they agreed to in passing this year’s budget.)

How else do you explain this: 93% of those who plan to vote against Gov. Brown’s tax proposal say the state budget situation is a big problem, compared to 77% of those who are planning to vote for Brown’s initiative?

Partly it’s explained by the fact that large majorities of Republicans are opposed to raising taxes of any sort: 58% oppose raising income taxes on the wealthiest Californians and 71% oppose raising the state sales tax.

Democrats and independents favor raising the income tax, 86% and 71% respectively. But they, too, oppose raising the sales tax: Democrats by 52-45% and independents by 65-33%.

It’s this sales tax component in Brown’s tax initiative that will give the governor his greatest challenge: overall, likely voters favor raising income taxes on rich folks by 65-33% but they oppose raising sales taxes by 58-40%.

Butts and Terms: PPIC had some interesting findings on two big tax measures (oops, sorry ’bout that)  on the June ballot as well. From their press release:

Two weeks before the June primary, just over half of likely voters say they will vote yes on a proposition to impose an additional $1 tax on cigarettes—a big decline in support from March. Most likely voters say they will vote for a measure to alter legislative term limits.

Support for the cigarette tax, Proposition 29, has dropped 14 points among likely voters since March. Today, 53 percent say they will vote yes, 42 percent say they will vote no, and 5 percent are undecided on the measure, which would tax other tobacco products as well, with revenues going to research on cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. In March—before the active campaign for and against the measure began—67 percent supported it, 30 percent opposed it, and 3 percent were undecided.

When likely voters are asked a more general question about their views on increasing taxes on cigarette purchases, 63 percent say they are in favor and 33 percent are opposed. Responses to this question were similar in March (63% favor, 34% oppose).

“The large drop in support for Proposition 29 speaks loudly about how a well-funded opposition is able to raise voters’ doubts and distrust in state government, even when a tax increase is viewed favorably,” says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Likely voters are more supportive of Proposition 28, which would reduce the number of years a lawmaker can serve in the state legislature from 14 to 12 but allow all years of service in one house. Sixty-two percent say they will vote yes, 29 percent say they will vote no, and 9 percent don’t know. Support for this measure has slipped slightly since March (68% yes, 24% no, 8% undecided).

Likely voters continue to have a positive view of the impact of term limits. Most (62%) say term limits are a good thing for California, 12 percent say they are a bad thing, and 21 percent say they make no difference.

Oh yeah, the presidential race: Meanwhile, as expected in Blue State California, President Barack Obama’s favorable is 52-45% positive while Mitt Romney’s is 52-40% unfavorable. Opinions break along party lines, with independents leaning positive for Obama 52-42% and negative about Romney 47-40%.

Obama’s announced support for same-sex marriage appears to have had little effect, at least as measured by polling. About half (49%) say it had no effect, while 25% say the  announcement makes them think more favorably of him and 25% say it makes them think less favorably of him. Whatever.

In the one-on-one, Obama leads Romney 50-39%, with Obama capturing the independents 45-33%. Which is why Obama and Romney come to California for fundraising and little else.

Now for something completely different: After getting caught sending out two different mailers — one for Jewish voters with his mother in the family tableau, the other for the goyim without Mom — U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (battling US. Rep Howard Berman in CA CD 30) told a local television reporter it was all a clever ploy to get coverage. Ha! Read about it here.

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There are 5 comments for this post

  1. avatar Andy says:

    It’s minde-blowing that in light of pension prolems and the Bell scandal local government is the one entity that maintains public faith.

  2. avatar patwater says:

    You know I never understood the narrative that these sorts of polls evidence a deep sclerosis in the California electorate. If I was to ask my neighbor Daniel if he liked ice cream he’d say yes. And if I asked him if he wanted to lose weight he’d also say yes. Yet somehow I imagine Daniel knows that eating ice cream and losing weight involve a tradeoff. Just like I imagine most California voters who have to balance their own personal finances understand that the state needs to balance revenues and expenditures.

    Ask a question that ignores tradeoffs and you shouldn’t be surprised when you get an answer that avoids them.

    And really I don’t think voters distrust in government, which I agree seems to be driving much of these results, is all that unreasonable. California is at the bottom of the nation in Pew’s Government Effectiveness Report card (http://www.pewstates.org/uploadedFiles/PCS_Assets/2008/Grading-the-States-2008.pdf) and in terms of our credit rating (offhand I think Illinois slipped below us, putting us at 2nd lowest) for a reason.

    Nothing to get depressed about — just means we have a lot of work to do. Should be fun 😉

  3. avatar NorthofUS says:

    It would really be great if the state government could do a better job of communicating what it is they do and why that is important to the taxpayer. Otherwise, it will always feels as if state government is a waste of money. It would also be great if state government could provide a case for the efficiency of the work they do versus living without particular services or seeing these services taken over by the private sector.

    • avatar GeoHagop says:

      So, in addition to the LAO we need a propaganda machine to tell citizens that public schools, health, libraries, roads, postal services, parks, water and air services, etc…that these are important. More important than say, ATT and, oh, I don’t know, Northrop Grummand and Wells Fargo? Seriously? Well, the LA Times sure ain’t gonna do it, nor the SF Comical. So, maybe you have a point. We need a government agency to report to the people all the goods and services they provide for themselves when they’re not being fed upon by the military/industrial/congressional/media complex. You convinced me. Raise the taxes needed to make it so.

  4. avatar NorthofUS says:

    It is not proganda to tell people what value the government is providing. Rather it is important to report back to the ones paying for the system to know what they are getting for their hard-earned money. That is what accountability is all about. It also creates a more grounded discussion as to priorities and what the taxpayer wants to pay in tax dollars. It also creates an opportunity for fairness and tones down the hysteria that special interest groups now us to instill terror in the minds of seniors in the state. People, by and large, can be fair and decent if they can also get government to square with them about what government costs and to determine whether or not they are getting value for their tax dollars. With any budget there are limits to what can be accomplished at any one time and everyone needs to understand the trade-offs. Maybe politicians need to provide some statesmanship instead of the vitriol that passes for political discourse in California.

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