SAN FRANCISCO, October 22, 2014—Jerry Brown maintains his strong lead among likely voters in the governor’s race against Neel Kashkari. Among two statewide ballot measures that Brown is campaigning for, Proposition 1—the $7.5 billion water bond—continues to have majority support and Proposition 2—the “rainy day fund”—has gained ground since September, with about half of likely voters in favor today.
A majority continue to favor Proposition 47, the measure to reduce sentences for some drug and property offenses. Support for Proposition 45—which would give the state insurance commissioner authority over health insurance rates—has declined since last month and continues to fall short of a majority.
These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with support from The James Irvine Foundation.
“The state propositions may end up driving voters to the polls who would otherwise sit out this midterm election in California,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “Many likely voters say the election outcomes on the ballot measures dealing with water, the state budget, health care, and criminal sentencing are important to them.”
Brown is ahead of Kashkari, 52 to 36 percent—a 16 point lead. By comparison, Brown led by 19 points in July and 21 points in September. Among likely voters, 83 percent of Democrats support Brown and 71 percent of Republicans favor Kashkari. Independents are divided (44% Brown, 40% Kashkari). Brown’s overall job approval rating is at 54 percent among likely voters. His record-high job approval rating is 60 percent, reached in January this year.
About half of likely voters (52%) are satisfied with their choice of candidates. Democrats (66%) and independents (54%) are far more likely to be satisfied than Republicans (36%). About half of likely voters say they are following news about the candidates very closely (18%) or fairly closely (34%). Attention to the news was higher in October 2006, the last gubernatorial election with an incumbent (19% very closely, 55% fairly closely).
Weeks before Election Day, California’s likely voters are more upbeat than they were four years ago. While less than half say the state is going in the right direction (40%), just 12 percent expressed this view four years ago. And likely voters are twice as likely today to say the state will have good times economically in the next year (42%) than they were in 2010 (20%).
Following the News of Drought Closely, Most Favor Proposition 1
When read the ballot title and label for Proposition 1, 56 percent of likely voters say they would vote yes, 32 percent no, and 12 percent don’t know. Most Democrats (68%) and independents (56%) favor the measure, which would fund water quality, supply, treatment, and storage projects. Republicans are evenly divided (43% yes, 43% no). Asked how important the outcome of the vote on Proposition 1 is to them, 54 percent of likely voters say it is very important and 33 percent say somewhat important. More than half of both supporters and opponents of Proposition 1 consider the outcome very important.
Californians express support for the water bond as the state struggles with a severe drought. A vast majority of likely voters say they are following news about the drought either very closely (62%) or fairly closely (30%)—a far greater share than are following news about the gubernatorial candidates.
Asked to name the most important issue facing Californians, likely voters today are now about as likely to name water and drought (28%) as jobs and the economy (30%). Four years ago, 59 percent named jobs and the economy as the top issue. An overwhelming majority (72%) say the supply of water is a big problem in their part of California. Those living in inland areas (74%) and coastal areas (72%) are equally likely to say water supply is a big problem.
How do likely voters feel about government response to the drought? A solid majority (62%) say state and local governments are not doing enough, while 28 percent say governments are doing the right amount and 4 percent say governments are doing too much.
“Majorities across the major state regions say that water supply is a big problem in their part of California and that their state and local government is not doing enough about this issue,” Baldassare said. “Whatever the outcome in November, voters will want more action on water and the drought next year.”
Half of Likely Voters Support Proposition 2
Proposition 2 would establish a budget stabilization account, or rainy day fund, that would include a separate reserve for public schools. Today, 49 percent of likely voters would vote yes on the measure, 34 percent would vote no, and 17 percent are undecided. Support for Proposition 2 has increased 6 points since September (43% yes, 33% no, 24% undecided). About half of Democrats (53%), Republicans (49%), and independents (49%) favor the proposition. A third (33%) of likely voters say the outcome on this measure is very important.
The fiscal reform concept behind Proposition 2—increasing the size of the rainy day fund and requiring that the state deposit above-average revenues into it—has majority support among likely voters (55%) today. In previous surveys, the general idea of increasing the rainy day fund has had higher support (76% May 2010, 71% January 2011, 69% May 2011, 70% December 2012, 70% January 2014).
A majority of likely voters (62%) today say the state’s budget situation is a big problem, but this is down significantly from two years ago (80%) and four years ago (90%).
Proposition 45 Faltering
Proposition 45 would require the insurance commissioner’s approval for changes to charges associated with health insurance. It has the support of 39 percent of likely voters, down 9 points from September (48%). Today, 46 percent would vote no and 15 percent are uncertain (38% no, 14% uncertain in September). Just over half (53%) say the outcome of Proposition 45 is very important to them.
California likely voters continue to be divided over the health care reform law itself (46% generally favorable, 46% unfavorable). Asked how much difference the law will make in the long run, they are split: 35 percent say it won’t make much difference, 33 percent say it will be a bad thing for them and their families, and 29 percent say it will be a good thing.
Proposition 47 Support Holds Steady
Proposition 47 requires a misdemeanor sentence—rather than a felony—for certain drug and property offenses. It does not apply to registered sex offenders or offenders with a prior conviction for serious or violent crimes. A majority of likely voters (59%) would vote yes on the measure, 29 percent would vote no, and 12 percent don’t know. Findings were similar in September (62% yes, 25% no, 13% uncertain). Today, solid majorities of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) would vote yes, while Republicans are more divided (48% yes, 40% no). Half of likely voters (49%) say the outcome of the vote on the proposition is very important.
Just 2 percent of likely voters name crime, drugs, and gangs as the most important issue facing the state. However, an overwhelming majority say that crime is a big problem (54%) or somewhat of a problem (33%) in California.
Under the state’s corrections realignment policy, local governments have taken on responsibility for some of the state’s lower-risk inmates. However, less than half of likely voters are very confident (13%) or somewhat confident (33%) in their local government’s ability to take on these new tasks.
Legislature’s Rating Up, Obama at Record Low, Congress Is Lower
Slightly more than a third of likely voters (37%) approve of the way the California Legislature is handling its job—up from 10 percent four years ago. They give a similar rating to their own assembly and state senate representatives (38%). This, too, is an improvement over 2010, when 30 percent approved of their own legislative representatives. Asked a general question about party preference, 48 percent of likely voters say they would vote for the Democratic candidate for assembly in their district if the election were held today and 40 percent say they would vote for the Republican candidate.
President Obama has a record-low 44 percent job approval rating among California likely voters, and they continue to disapprove of the way the U.S. Congress is handling its job (16% approve, 79% disapprove). They give their own representative in the U.S. House a much higher rating of 47 percent. If the election were held today, 48 percent of likely voters would vote for the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in their district and 41 percent would vote for the Republican.
California likely voters are more likely to have a favorable impression of the Democratic Party (44% favorable, 50% unfavorable) than the Republican Party (30% favorable, 64% unfavorable). But that does not mean they are satisfied. Favorability for both parties has declined since October 2012, when 53 percent had a favorable impression of the Democratic Party and 38 percent had a favorable impression of the Republican Party. Today, a solid majority (63%) say that both parties do such a poor job representing the American people that a third party is needed. The share of likely voters expressing this view has increased 11 points since October 2012 (52%).
An ‘Enthusiasm Gap’ This Election Year
How does all of this translate into likely voters’ level of enthusiasm for voting in November? While 40 percent say they are more enthusiastic than in previous elections, a similar share (42%) say they are less enthusiastic. Larger shares of likely voters said they were more enthusiastic about voting in the last gubernatorial election (53% October 2010) and in the last presidential election (61% October 2012).
“California likely voters are signaling an enthusiasm gap that cuts across party lines,” Baldassare said. “The potential for another low turnout election is troubling for California.”
ABOUT THE SURVEY
The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,704 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from October 12–19, 2014. 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, ±4.1 percent for the 1,281 registered voters and ±4.6 percent for the 976 likely voters. For more information on methodology, see page 23.
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.