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Press Release · October 22, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Losing – Measures to Restrict Abortion for Minors, Reform Redistricting Fail to Reach 50 Percent

Obama’s Lead Over McCain Grows to 23 Points as Voters’ Fears About Economy Deepen

SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 22, 2008 — Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that would end same-sex marriage in California, is losing among likely voters, 52 percent to 44 percent, according to a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. With two weeks to go before Election Day, support also remains below the 50 percent threshold for two other closely watched initiatives, Proposition 4, which would require a parent to be notified before a minor can have an abortion, and Proposition 11, which would give a commission of voters the authority to draw legislative districts.

In the presidential campaign, the Democratic ticket of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Biden has increased its lead over Republican contenders Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin to 23 points (56% to 33%), a 13-point gain in the last month. Independent voters, women, Latinos, and younger voters support Obama-Biden by a wide margin. Party loyalty remains high, with Democratic voters’ support of the Democratic ticket (89%) increasing by 5 points in the last month. A strong majority of Republican likely voters (75%) back their party’s nominees, but that support has dropped 8 points since last month.

“A big turnout for the top-of-the-ticket presidential race could have a significant impact on the rest of the ballot, from the propositions to legislative races,” says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Enthusiasm for their choice of presidential candidates is high among Democratic likely voters, with 74 percent saying they are satisfied. Independents are divided (51% dissatisfied, 48% satisfied). Satisfaction with the candidates has declined sharply among Republicans, from 67 percent last month to 44 percent today.

Concern About the Economy Trumps All Other Issues

Enthusiasm for the candidates doesn’t necessarily mean that likely voters are satisfied with the campaigns: Over half (56%) are dissatisfied with the amount of time devoted to issues most important to them. And what they want to hear most about is the economy. Fifty-five percent of likely voters see it as the top issue, a 21-point increase since August. Health care, immigration, and the war in Iraq are the next most frequently named issues, with just 6 percent of likely voters mentioning any of them. On the question of which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, 59 percent prefer Obama and 30 percent choose McCain.

The leaders Californians choose on November 4 will face an electorate deeply pessimistic about the future of the state and nation and distrustful of government. Just 20 percent of likely voters think the state is headed in the right direction, a decline of 21 points since September 2007. Nearly eight in 10 think the state is in a serious (39%), moderate (30%), or mild (9%) recession. And in the midst of a global financial crisis, the $700 billion economic bailout plan has failed to allay voters’ fears about the future of their own state. Just four in 10 (37%) say the federal government’s actions will help the California economy.

“The task all our elected officials face is to restore confidence in government,” Baldassare says. “Californians are desperate for change, eager for new leadership, and very low on confidence.”

More Republicans Back Proposition 8, More Independents Oppose It

The gap between likely voters in favor and opposed to Proposition 8 (44% yes, 52% no) has narrowed since September (41% yes, 55% no) and August (40% yes, 54% no). Compared to last month, more Republicans (70% today, 62% September) would vote yes on the measure, which would eliminate the right for same-sex couples to marry that the state Supreme Court granted in May. Opposition is 4 points lower among Democrats (67% today, 71% September), but 5 points higher among independents (58% today, 53% September).

At least half of men, women, Latinos, and whites oppose Proposition 8. Regionally, majorities of likely voters in the San Francisco Bay Area (67%) and Los Angeles (55%) are opposed. But majorities in the Central Valley (54%) and in the “Other Southern California” region that includes Orange, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties (52%) favor the measure.

On the more general question of how they feel about allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry in California, likely voters are divided, 47 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed. These attitudes are largely unchanged since 2005.

In an indication of how strong voters’ motivations are to cast their ballots on this measure, supporters of Proposition 8 are far more likely (69%) than opponents (49%) to say the results are very important.

Voters Closely Divided on Proposition 4

Likely voters are divided on Proposition 4 (46% yes, 44% no, 10% don’t know), a constitutional amendment that would prohibit a girl under 18 years old to have an abortion until 48 hours after a parent or guardian is notified. Support for the measure has failed to reach a majority for the third month (48% yes in September, 47% yes in August). Voters defeated similar measures in 2005 (47% yes, 53% no) and 2006 (46% yes, 54% no).

Likely voters are strongly divided along party lines on Proposition 4, with Republicans in favor (61% to 28%) and Democrats opposed (35% to 54%). Half of independents are opposed (51% to 43%). Regionally, a majority of Bay Area likely voters (56%) are opposed, while about half of those in Los Angeles (52%), the Central Valley (52%), and the “Other Southern California” region (51%) are in favor.

Many Still Undecided About Proposition 11

Most likely voters across regions say state legislators would more effectively represent their districts if an independent commission of citizens drew the district lines — which is what Proposition 11 would do. But when it comes to casting their votes, many likely voters are skeptical of the measure. Their views on Proposition 11 are similar (41% yes, 34% no) to those expressed in September (38% yes, 33% no), and 25 percent are still undecided. Support for Proposition 11 is highest among Republicans (45%) and has increased the most among independents (39% today, 29% September). Support has increased somewhat among Democrats since August (38% today, 36% September, 31% August), but they are still divided (38% yes, 37% no). Among demographic groups, support for Proposition 11 is higher among men (47%) than women (35%). Opposition is higher among Latinos (44%) than whites (31%).


  • Candidate debates influential for less than half of voters – Page 9
    With likely voters paying close attention to the news about the presidential campaigns, 48 percent say the televised debates did not help them much (39%) or at all (9%) in making their decisions, while 46 percent say the debates helped them some (29%) or a lot (17%).
  • Governor, legislature approval ratings up slightly – Page 18
    Despite a record-setting budget impasse, the approval ratings of both Gov. Schwarzenegger (47%) and the state legislature (22%) rise among likely voters.
  • In wake of bailout, ratings for Bush, Congress hit new lows – Page 18
    The president’s approval rating drops to 20 percent, and Congress’ rating hits 18 percent among likely voters.
  • Likely voters have little trust in Washington – Page 19
    Just one in five say they trust the federal government to do what is right nearly always or most of the time, and three in four think Washington wastes a lot of taxpayer money.
  • State budget worries linger – Page 20
    With a gap between revenues and expenses developing in the current budget, a strong majority of voters (80%) see the situation as serious, with 44 percent preferring to fill the gap with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, and 37 percent preferring a plan that relies mostly on spending cuts.
  • Initiative reforms get strong backing – Page 21
    As they prepare to vote on a ballot that includes 10 citizen initiatives, just 9 percent of likely voters are very satisfied with the way the initiative process is working in California, while 55 percent are somewhat satisfied with it. Majorities favor proposals to reform the process.
  • Confidence in voting system is shaky – Page 23
    Only about half (51%) of likely voters have a great deal or a lot of confidence in the nation’s voting system.


This survey is the 32nd in the Californians and Their Government series and is supported with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. It seeks to raise public awareness, inform decisionmakers, and stimulate public discussion on state and national issues and the November general election. This is the 91st PPIC Statewide Survey in a series that has generated a database that includes the responses of more than 194,000 Californians. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,004 California adult residents interviewed from October 12-19, 2008. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The sampling error for the total sample is ± 2% and for the 1,186 likely voters is ± 3%. 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 a private, nonprofit organization 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.