PPIC Logo Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Press Release · September 23, 2014

Brown Holds Big Lead—Majorities Support Water Bond, Measure to Ease Crime Penalties

Fewer Favor Propositions on Rainy Day Fund, Health Insurance Rate Changes

SAN FRANCISCO, September 23, 2014— Jerry Brown holds a 21 point lead over Neel Kashkari among likely voters in the governor’s race, and there is majority support both for a state water bond and a proposition that would reduce penalties for some drug and property offenses. Likely voters are more divided on two other statewide ballot initiatives, one that would establish a budget stabilization account—or rainy day fund—and another that would give the state insurance commissioner authority over changes in health insurance rates.

These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with funding from The James Irvine Foundation.

Brown leads Kashkari 54 percent to 33 percent among likely voters, similar to results in July (52% to 33%). Brown has the support of 86 percent of Democrats, while 64 percent of Republicans prefer Kashkari. Independents support Brown over Kashkari (45% Brown, 31% Kashkari, 19% don’t know). A majority of likely voters (55%) are satisfied with their choice of candidates for governor and 31 percent are not. Democrats (71%) are far more likely than Republicans (38%) to be satisfied. Half of independents (49%) are satisfied.

Less than two months before the election, half of likely voters are following news about the gubernatorial candidates very closely (12%) or fairly closely (40%). Attention was much higher in September 2010 (30% very closely, 51% fairly closely) and in 2006, the last time there was an election involving an incumbent (17% very closely, 57% fairly closely).

Brown’s job approval rating is at 55 percent among likely voters compared to 42 percent two years ago (September 2012). His record-high job approval rating is 60 percent, reached in January this year.

As Californians cope with a severe drought, they will vote on Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond to pay for water quality, supply, treatment, and storage projects. When read the measure’s ballot title and label, 58 percent of likely voters say they would vote yes, 29 percent would vote no, and 14 percent are undecided. Majorities of Democrats (68%) and independents (59%) support Proposition 1. Republicans are more likely to vote yes (44%) than no (36%). Majorities across regions favor the bond, with support highest in the San Francisco Bay Area (64%) and Inland Empire (62%), followed by the Central Valley (55%), Los Angeles (55%), and Orange/San Diego (51%). Half of likely voters (51%) say the outcome of Proposition 1 is very important to them.

Underscoring their concern about water, 72 percent of likely voters say the supply of water is a big problem in their part of California—up 11 points in just two months (61% July). The survey also asked how Californians would vote if their local water district had a bond measure on the ballot to pay for water supply infrastructure projects. A strong majority of likely voters (67%) say they would vote yes. Majorities of registered Democrats (77%), independents (67%), and Republicans (56%) say they would vote yes, as do residents across regions. And, when asked the most important issue facing the state’s residents today, 29 percent of likely voters name water and drought, second only to jobs and the economy (32%).

“The state water bond is supported by a 2–1 margin,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “More and more Californians perceive the drought as the top state issue and their region’s water supply as a big problem.”

Solid Majority Favor Proposition 47

Proposition 47 would require a misdemeanor sentence instead of a felony for certain drug and property offenses. It would not apply to offenders with prior convictions for serious or violent crime or to registered sex offenders. A majority of likely voters (62%) would vote yes on this measure, 25 percent would vote no, and 13 percent don’t know. Solid majorities of Democrats (69%) and independents (64%) would vote yes. Half of Republicans (50%) would vote yes (32% no, 19% don’t know). Asked about the importance of the vote on this measure, 42 percent say the outcome is very important to them.

Support for Proposition 2 Falls Short of Majority

Two years after passing Proposition 30, voters are being asked again to address the state’s budget situation. Proposition 2 would establish a budget stabilization account, or rainy day fund, that would include a separate reserve for public schools. Among likely voters, 43 percent would vote yes, 33 percent would vote no, and 24 percent don’t know. The results are similar across parties, with less than half of partisans saying they would vote yes. Across all demographic groups, Proposition 2 has neither majority support or majority opposition. Just 30 percent of likely voters say the outcome of the vote on this measure is very important to them.

At the same time, a solid majority of likely voters (62%) say the state’s budget situation is a big problem, and 53 percent say the state budget process is in need of major changes (31% minor changes).

“Support for Proposition 2 is falling short of a majority, even though many voters still think the state budget situation is a big problem and believe that California is headed into bad economic times,” Baldassare said.

Half Favor Proposition 45

Proposition 45 would require the state insurance commissioner’s approval for changes in health insurance rates or other charges. About half of likely voters (48%) favor this proposition, 38 percent are opposed, and 14 percent are undecided. A majority of Democrats (54%) and half of independents (49%) support Proposition 45. Republicans are more likely to oppose (47%) than support it (39%). Among likely voters, 42 percent say the outcome of the vote on this measure is very important to them.

Asked about their views of the federal health reform law, likely voters remain divided: 45 percent view it favorably and 49 percent unfavorably. Among all adults, Californians with health insurance are much more likely to have a favorable opinion of the law than those without (44% to 32%).

The survey also asked about the effect of the law. A majority of likely voters (56%) say it has had no direct impact on them or their families, while 18 percent say it has directly helped them or their families and 24 percent say it has hurt them. Among all adults, Californians with household incomes of less than $40,000 (27%) are more likely to say the law has helped them than those with higher incomes (13% $40,000 to $80,000, 15% $80,000 or more). Latinos (26%) and blacks (25%) are the most likely to say the law has helped them, followed by Asians (20%) and whites (14%).

Californians Feeling Better About Their State

Californians are feeling more positive about the state than they were when they cast their ballots two years ago. Today, 43 percent of likely voters say things in California are generally going in the right direction (29% September 2012), although 52 percent say it is going in the wrong direction. Asked about economic conditions, 44 percent of likely voters say the state will have good times financially in the next year (29% September 2012), while 46 percent expect bad times.

Baldassare noted: “The mood of the California electorate is much more upbeat today than two years ago, and this is a trend that works in favor of the political status quo and incumbents this fall.”

As the legislative session ended with a brighter state budget picture, 32 percent of likely voters say they approve of the way the state legislature is doing its job. Just 22 percent expressed this view in September 2012. The legislature’s job approval rating has changed little this year (33% January) despite recent political scandals. Because of the legal problems of some members, legislative Democrats lost the supermajority they gained in 2012. Asked how they feel about the possibility that Democrats would regain a supermajority, likely voters are split: 34 percent say it would be a good thing, 37 percent say it would be a bad thing, and 28 percent say it would make no difference.

Obama’s Approval Rating at Record Low

President Obama’s job approval rating among California likely voters matches the record-low 46 percent he got in January. Not surprisingly, there is a wide partisan divide, with 72 percent of registered Democrats approving and 82 percent of Republicans disapproving of the president’s job performance. Independents are more likely to disapprove (55%) than approve (39%).

Congress continues to get a low rating, with just 16 percent of likely voters approving of its job performance. These results are similar to those in recent surveys (14% May, 15% July). How would California’s likely voters like to see this year’s congressional elections play out? Half (50%) prefer that Democrats control Congress, while 40 percent prefer that Republicans be in control (10% don’t know).

Asked to evaluate the state’s two Democratic senators, 55 percent of likely voters approve of the job Dianne Feinstein is doing, similar to last September (51%). Barbara Boxer’s rating is 10 points lower at 45 percent, also similar to last September (48%).

More Key Findings

  • Happy with the initiative process—page 17
    Most Californians (65%) and likely voters (66%) are at least somewhat satisfied with the way the initiative process is working. Large majorities (81% adults, 78% likely voters) say the state’s voters should make some of the decisions involved in the state budget—as they are in voting on Propositions 1 and 2 this fall.
  • Most see immigrants as a benefit rather than burden—page 21
    A solid majority of Californians (61%) and half of likely voters (51%) say immigrants benefit the state. Californians are divided on whether securing the border or addressing the status of illegal immigrants should be a higher priority.
  • Ready for a disaster? Half have an emergency kit—pages 22, 23
    In the wake of a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area, 64 percent of Californians say they are at least somewhat worried about the impact of a major disaster on their households. Half of Californians (52%) say they have a disaster supply kit in their households.


The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,702 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from September 8–15, 2014. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.6 percent for all adults, ±4.1 percent for the 1,321 registered voters and ±4.9 percent for the 916 likely voters. For questions 23, 25, 29, and 42 (652 respondents), asked from September 8–11, it is ±5.7 percent. For more information on methodology, see page 25.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.

PPIC is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.