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Press Release · October 24, 2018

Newsom, Feinstein Lead—Gas Tax Repeal, Rent Control Lag


SAN FRANCISCO, October 24, 2018—In the closing weeks of the fall campaign, Gavin Newsom holds an 11 point lead among likely voters in the governor’s race and Dianne Feinstein is ahead by 16 points in the US Senate election. Two closely watched ballot measures—one to repeal the recent gas tax increase and another to expand local authority to enact rent control—are trailing.

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

Democrat Newsom leads Republican John Cox among likely voters 49 percent to 38 percent, with 10 percent undecided. A large majority of Democratic likely voters (83%) favor Newsom, and a similar majority of Republicans (82%) support Cox. Independents are divided (43% Cox, 38% Newsom). Across racial/ethnic groups, white likely voters are divided (45% Newsom, 45% Cox), while Latinos favor Newsom (65% to 23%). Likely voters in other racial/ethnic groups prefer Newsom by 25 points. (Sample sizes for Asian American and African American likely voters are too small for separate analysis.)

Most likely voters (68%) say they are following news about the candidates at least fairly closely. And most (60%) are satisfied with their choices of candidates in this race, with satisfaction higher among Democrats and Newsom supporters.

US Senate: Feinstein Ahead by Double Digits

Senator Dianne Feinstein, seeking her fifth US Senate term, leads fellow Democrat Kevin de León 43 percent to 27 percent, with a quarter of likely voters (23%) saying they will not vote in this race and 8 percent undecided. Democratic likely voters favor Feinstein three to one (66% to 22%). Half of Republicans (51%) and 22 percent of independents say they will not vote in the US Senate election. When those who say they would not vote are excluded, Feinstein leads by 20 points (55% to 35%).

Feinstein leads among white likely voters (41% to 27%), Latino likely voters (45% to 34%), and likely voters in other racial/ethnic groups (50% to 19%). Feinstein leads by 27 points among women (50% to 23%), while men are divided (35% Feinstein, 31% de León). Likely voters age 45 and older prefer Feinstein (47% to 26%), while those age 18 to 44 are divided (34% Feinstein, 30% de León). About half of likely voters (53%) are satisfied with their choice of candidates in this race between two Democrats. A strong majority of Democrats (79%) are satisfied, compared to 40 percent of independents and 28 percent of Republicans.

“Gavin Newsom and Dianne Feinstein continue to hold significant leads over their challengers as the governor’s and Senate races enter the final stretch,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Gas Tax Repeal: 41 Percent Would Vote for Proposition 6

Proposition 6 would repeal the fuel taxes and vehicle fees enacted last year. When read the ballot title and label of the measure, 48 percent of likely voters would vote no, compared to 41 percent who would vote yes and 11 percent who are undecided. Findings were similar in September (52% no, 39% yes, 8% undecided). Today, a slim majority of Republican likely voters (53%) and about half of independents (49%) would vote yes, while fewer Democrats (28%) would do so. Regionally, support for repeal is highest in Orange/San Diego (52%) and lowest in the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area (36% each). Fewer than half across all demographic groups say they support the measure.

Asked about the importance of the outcome of the vote on Proposition 6, 46 percent of likely voters say it is very important to them (35% somewhat important). Among those who favor repealing the gas tax increase, 57 percent say the outcome is very important. Among those who would vote no, 43 percent say the outcome is very important.

If Proposition 6 passes, revenue from fuel and license fee increases that is now expected to fund transportation infrastructure projects would be eliminated. When likely voters are asked about traffic congestion on freeways and major roads, most (66%) say it is a big problem in their region.

Rent Control: Proposition 10 Loses Ground

Proposition 10 would expand the authority of local governments to enact rent control. When read the ballot title and label of this measure, 60 percent of likely voters would vote no, while 25 percent would vote yes and 15 percent are undecided. Opposition to Proposition 10 has increased since September (48% no, 36% yes, 16% undecided). Today, majorities across parties would vote no on the measure. Across all regions, less than a third of likely voters say they will vote yes. Although renters are more likely than homeowners to support Proposition 10 (34% to 22%), majorities in both groups would vote no if the election were held today. Indeed, majorities across all demographic groups would vote no.

When they are asked about the importance of Proposition 10, 46 percent of likely voters say the outcome of the vote is very important to them. Those who would vote yes are about as likely as those who would vote no to say that the outcome of the vote is very important.

When likely voters are asked more generally about housing affordability, 66 percent say it is a big problem in their part of the state. Those who say they would vote yes on Proposition 10 are more likely than opponents to say that housing affordability is a big problem (73% to 62%).

“While most say that housing affordability is a problem, Proposition 10 trails,” Baldassare said. “Only half say the outcome of this ballot measure is very important to them.”

Congress: Majority Favor Democratic Candidates for House

As both parties focus on which one will control Congress, half of California likely voters say they are extremely enthusiastic (25%) or very enthusiastic (28%) about voting in congressional races this year. Democratic likely voters (67%) are more apt to say they are very or extremely enthusiastic than Republicans (45%) and independents (42%) are.

If the election for the House of Representatives were held today, a majority of likely voters (55%) say they would vote for or lean toward the Democratic candidate, and 37 percent would vote for or lean toward the Republican. Partisan likely voters support the candidate from their own party, while independents are divided. In districts held by a Democratic representative, likely voters prefer the Democratic candidate by a 30 point margin (60% to 30%). In districts held by a Republican, likely voters prefer the Republican candidate by 15 points (55% to 40%). In the 11 districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report, likely voters are divided (49% Republican candidate, 44% Democratic candidate). Nine of these seats are now held by Republicans. (For more information, see page 22 of the PPIC survey report.)

The PPIC survey asks if it is more important that candidates for Congress work with the Trump administration or push back. Likely voters are divided: 45 percent prefer working with the administration and 48 percent prefer pushing back.

Few Approve of Congress or the Senate Vote to Confirm Kavanaugh

When California likely voters are asked about their current leaders, half (50%) approve of Governor Jerry Brown; his approval ratings were similar in September 2017 (55%).The state legislature’s approval rating among likely voters is 43 percent. President Trump’s approval rating—39 percent among likely voters today—was similar when he took office in January 2017 (34%). Just 20 percent of California likely voters approve of the way Congress is doing its job. Asked about the US Senate’s vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, a majority of likely voters (56%) disapprove.

Most Have Bad Impression of Major Parties

Asked for their impressions of the major political parties, fewer than half of likely voters have a favorable view of the Democratic Party (41%) and fewer than a third have a favorable impression of the Republican Party (31%). Notably, the favorability of the Democratic Party was somewhat higher in October 2016 (50%) before the last statewide election, while the favorability of the Republican Party was somewhat lower (24%). One finding has changed little: most likely voters say the parties do such a poor job that a third major party is needed (61% today, 62% October 2016).

Baldassare said: “As likely voters ponder who they should elect to represent them in Washington, views about the major political parties and Congress are in negative territory.”

As the election nears, likely voters are conflicted about the state of the nation. About half are feeling optimistic about the economy—47 percent expect good economic times in California in the next year, and 53 percent expect good economic times in the nation. In contrast, just 38 percent say that things in the United States are generally going in the right direction.

ACA Gets Favorable Marks, Border Wall Does Not

The survey asks likely voters about three key national issues:

  • Majority view Affordable Care Act favorably: 53 percent of likely voters hold a generally favorable view of the health reform law and 43 percent view it unfavorably. A solid majority (59%) say it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. Likely voters are divided on whether health insurance should be provided through a single national insurance system (28%) or through a mix of private insurance and government programs (27%).
    Baldassare summed up: “Most California likely voters think that the federal government should be responsible for providing health coverage for all, while less than a third favor a single-payer system.”
  • Two-thirds oppose building a border wall: 65 percent of likely voters oppose building a wall along the entire border with Mexico. As the US Department of Justice pursues a lawsuit against California over three immigration laws the state enacted, the survey asks whether California should make its own policies to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants. A slim majority of likely voters (52%) say it should and 44 percent say no.
  • Most want stricter gun laws: A majority of likely voters (59%) say laws covering the sale of guns should be stricter, while 18 percent say laws should be less strict and 22 percent favor keeping gun laws the way they are.

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 1,704 California adult residents, including 1,193 interviewed on cell phones and 511 interviewed on landline telephones. Interviews took place from October 12–21, 2018. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.3 percent for all adults. For the 1,352 registered voters, it is ±3.6 percent and for the 989 likely voters it is ±4.2 percent. For the 176 likely voters in competitive congressional districts, it is ±10.2 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.