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Press Release · September 26, 2018

Gas Tax Repeal, Rent Control Propositions Trailing


SAN FRANCISCO, September 26, 2018—A slim majority of California’s likely voters oppose Proposition 6, the measure on the November ballot to repeal recently enacted increases in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. Proposition 10—which would expand the authority of local governments to enact rent control—is also trailing.

These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

When likely voters are read the Proposition 6 ballot title and label, 52 percent say they would vote no, 39 percent would vote yes, and 8 percent are undecided about the measure, which would repeal the tax increases on gasoline and diesel fuel signed into law last year to fund road repairs and public transportation.

Across parties, half of Republican likely voters (50%) would vote yes. Fewer independents (42%) and Democrats (33%) would do so. Across all demographic groups, fewer than half of likely voters say they would vote yes.  Asked about the importance of the outcome of the vote on the measure, 47 percent of likely voters say it is very important to them (37% say it is somewhat important). Among those who would vote yes, 55 percent say the outcome is very important, while 45 percent of those who would vote no express this view.

“A slim majority of likely voters say they would vote no on Proposition 6, the gas tax repeal,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “Across all of the state’s major regions, fewer than half say they would vote yes.”

Proposition 10 would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which restricts cities’ ability to implement rent control. Among likely voters, 48 percent would vote no on the proposition; 36 percent would vote yes and 16 percent are undecided.

Slim majorities of Republican and independent likely voters (52% each) would vote no on the measure. Democrats are divided (46% yes, 43% no). Regionally, support for Proposition 10 is highest in Los Angeles (45%) and lowest in the Inland Empire (29%). Across all demographic groups, support among likely voters for Proposition 10 tops 50 percent only among those age 18–34 (51%). When asked about the importance of the outcome of the Proposition 10 vote, 42 percent of likely voters say it is very important (33% somewhat important).

“Proposition 10, the local rent control initiative, trails by a 12 point margin,” Baldassare said. “The yes votes are falling below a majority among both homeowners and renters.”

Newsom Still Has a Double-Digit Lead, But It’s Smaller

In the governor’s race, Democrat Gavin Newsom maintains a double-digit lead over Republican John Cox among likely voters, although the 24 point lead Newsom had in July (55% to 31%) has narrowed to 12 points today. Today, about half (51%) say they would vote for Newsom, while 39 percent would vote for Cox and 7 percent are undecided.

Most Democratic likely voters (86%) support Newsom and most Republicans support Cox (85%). Independents are divided (42% Newsom, 37% Cox, 15% undecided). Latino likely voters favor Newsom over Cox by 38 points, while white likely voters are divided. Likely voters in other racial/ethnic groups prefer Newsom by 16 points (sample sizes for Asian American and African American likely voters are too small for separate analysis). A majority of likely voters (59%) are satisfied with their choice of candidates in the governor’s race (32% not satisfied). Most likely voters say they are following news about the candidates very closely (21%) or fairly closely (41%).

Feinstein Ahead by 11 Points

Dianne Feinstein, who is seeking her fifth full term in the US Senate, leads fellow Democrat Kevin de León by 11 points (40% to 29%) among likely voters, with 8 percent undecided. The margin has also narrowed in this race: in July, Feinstein led by 22 points (46% to 24%). Today, about a quarter of likely voters (23%) volunteer that they would not vote for US senator. When this group is excluded, Feinstein leads de León 52 percent to 37 percent.

Across parties, Democratic likely voters favor Feinstein by a two-to-one margin (60% to 30%), while about half of Republicans (52%) and a quarter of independents (26%) say they would not vote for US senator. Feinstein leads among women (46% to 30%), while men are divided (34% Feinstein, 28% de León). She leads among white likely voters (40% to 25%) and those in other racial/ethnic groups (41% to 32%). Latino likely voters are divided (40% Feinstein, 38% de León). Feinstein leads among likely voters age 18–44 (41% to 33%) and among those 45 and older (40% to 27%). Most likely voters (55%) are satisfied with their choice of candidates in this race.

Baldassare summed up: “Lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom and incumbent US senator Dianne Feinstein lead their challengers by double digits although by smaller margins than in July.”

Most Favor Democratic Candidates in House Races

With control of Congress a much-discussed issue, half of California’s likely voters (52%) say this election is more important to them than past midterms. Democratic likely voters (64%) are much more likely than Republicans (48%) and independents (42%) to say this election is more important.

Asked about the election for the US House of Representatives, most California likely voters (54%) say they would vote for or lean toward the Democratic candidate, while 37 percent would vote for or lean toward the Republican. Most partisans support their own party’s candidate, while independents prefer the Democratic candidate by 11 points. Democratic candidates are favored by a 35 point margin (63% to 28%) in districts held by Democratic members of the House. Republicans are favored by a 21 point margin (55% to 34%) in Republican-held districts. In the 11 districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report, likely voters are closely divided, with 44 percent favoring the Republican candidate and 43 percent favoring Democrat. (The competitive districts are 4, 7, 10, 16, 21, 25, 39, 45, 48, 49, and 50, as shown on this congressional map.)

When likely voters are asked if they would prefer to elect a House candidate with experience in politics or someone without it, 46 percent prefer experience and fewer (36%) prefer a person new to politics.

A Third of Likely Voters Approve of Trump

President Trump’s approval rating is 37 percent among likely voters. A stark partisan divide persists: 81 percent of registered Republicans approve of his job performance, and 91 percent of registered Democrats disapprove. A majority of registered independents (60%) disapprove of Trump. Asked to rate Congress, 20 percent of likely voters approve. Majorities of registered voters across parties disapprove of the job Congress is doing (79% Democrats, 65% Republicans, 64% independents).

By contrast, at the state level, 53 percent of California likely voters approve of Governor Brown’s job performance and 44 percent approve of the way the legislature is doing its job.

When likely voters are asked to rate their own representatives at the state and national levels, 48 percent approve of the job their legislators in the assembly and senate are doing and 56 percent approve of their House representative.

As Feinstein campaigns for reelection, she has an approval rating of 53 percent among likely voters. Senator Kamala Harris—who has had a high-profile role in the hearing on US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh—has a 55 percent approval rating among likely voters.

Most Say Supreme Court Choice Important to Them Personally

As debate continues over the Kavanaugh nomination, 74 percent of likely voters view the choice of the next Supreme Court justice as very important to them personally (18% somewhat important). Majorities of registered voters across parties say the choice is very important.

With abortion policy one of the central issues in the Supreme Court debate, the survey asks likely voters about Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. Three-fourths (76%) say they do not want to see the decision overturned. Majorities of registered voters across parties express this view, although Republicans are far less likely to do so (83% Democrats, 75% independents, 53% Republicans).

“Three in four likely voters say the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is very important to them,” Baldassare said. “They would not like to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Half Disapprove of Crackdown on Undocumented Immigrants

Immigration is another national issue important to California. Half of likely voters (51%) say the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants is a bad thing for the country. When asked if they worry that someone they know could be deported, 18 percent of likely voters say they worry a lot and 23 percent say they worry some.

Jobs, Economy Seen as Most Important Issue

Less than two months before the election, California’s likely voters are most likely to name jobs and the economy (18%), immigration (12%), and housing (11%) as the most important issues facing the state. Half (50%) say things in California are generally going in the right direction, and 55 percent say the state will have good times financially in the next year.

About the Survey

The Californians and Their Government series is supported with funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle.

Findings in this report are based on a survey of 1,710 California adult residents, including 1,195 interviewed on cell phones and 515 interviewed on landline telephones. Interviews took place from September 9–18, 2018. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.5 percent for all adults. For the 1,349 registered voters, it is ±4 percent and for the 964 likely voters it is ±4.8 percent. For the 185 likely voters in competitive congressional districts, it is ±11.4 percent. More information on methodology begins on page 21.

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.

The Public Policy Institute of California is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We are a public charity. We do not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor do we endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funders or of the staff, officers, advisory councils, or board of directors of the Public Policy Institute of California.