Brown tax hike ahead in online poll

1:34 PM, Jul 20, 2012   |    comments
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A poll conducted online of Californians finds general support for Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase to help balance the state budget, while less support for a tax increase dedicated to K-12 schools.

The survey of all eleven November propositions, conducted on behalf of the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy, also finds split support for repealing the death penalty but strong support for a measure that would curtail union political spending.

Polls conducted online have historically been thought to be less reliable, but backers of this poll say they used well-tested business and marketing poll methods.  Those include generating a sample group of people encouraged to take online surveys for rewards prizes or points.  Participants are invited by email, and don't know whether it's a marketing or political poll until they take it.  The backers said Thursday they feel confident all 812 participants were Californians, but said they didn't match users to the state's voter registration rolls.

The poll found the governor's tax hike, Proposition 30, supported by 56 percent of those surveyed; 32 percent said they oppose it.  But support was lower among independents (53 percent) and so-called 'swing voters' (49 percent), both key constituencies come the fall.

Support was similarly strong for Proposition 39, an initiative to cancel a state corporate tax break and use the money for clean energy and budget needs (55 percent yes).  But only 35 percent of poll participants support the initiative to raise income taxes and earmark the money for K-12 schools, Proposition 38.

The initiative to replace the state's death penalty law with life in prison, Proposition 34, had an almost equal spit in the poll of supporters versus opponents (45 percent yes, 47 percent no).

And Proposition 32, the initiative to ban political cash raised through employee paycheck deductions, was supported by 60 percent of those who took the online poll.  Prop 32, while treating both union and corporate paycheck deductions equally, would nonetheless disproportionately impact unions -- as corporations have other sources of money.

While all polls are merely a snapshot in time, and thus not predictive of what will happen on election day, two other things are worth noting about this poll.  First, as stated earlier, the accuracy of online political polls is still hotly debated -- though organizers of this poll say their methodology is actually more reliable in some ways than telephone polls.  Participants, for example, get to read the proposition titles and summaries in the same way these appear on the ballot, and are not reached by phone in the evening when they may be distracted and not really thinking through the details of the proposals.

And second, the poll's backers point out -- correctly -- that this poll is sampling opinions as they stand before the campaign season kicks off.  No doubt support and opposition will wax or wane as tens of millions of dollars worth of TV ads and mailers descend of California voters.  And while Governor Brown's tax initiative may already be familiar to voters, the ten other measures are probably still a bit of a mystery some 16 weeks before Election Day.

As such, the backers of the poll say they intend to release new surveys every two weeks.

You can see the poll data for yourself in summary form, as well as detailed lists of the questions (PDF).  The survey also asked about job approval for the governor and the Legislature, and early opinions about the two candidates in the race for the U.S. Senate.


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