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Press Release · October 24, 2012

Voters Split on Proposition 30–Proposition 31, 32, 38 Lag

Californians Decide State Issues Amid Enthusiasm About Presidential Race

SAN FRANCISCO, October 24, 2012—Likely voters are divided over Proposition 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s tax measure to fund education, with just under half supporting it. 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.

When read the ballot title and label for Proposition 30, 48 percent would vote yes, 44 percent would vote no, and 8 percent are undecided. The margin has narrowed since September (52% yes, 40% no, 8% undecided). Proposition 30 would fund schools by increasing taxes on earnings over $250,000 for seven years and the sales tax by ¼ cent for four years, and would also guarantee public safety realignment funding.

Support is lower for Proposition 38, attorney Molly Munger’s tax measure to fund education: 39 percent would vote yes, 53 percent would vote no, and 9 percent are undecided. Voters were evenly divided in September (45% yes, 45% no). Proposition 38 would increase taxes on earnings for 12 years, using a sliding scale, with revenues going to K–12 schools and early childhood programs and also, for four years, to repaying state debt.

Californians are making their decisions about these and nine other statewide initiatives during a hard-fought presidential campaign that has sparked enthusiasm among the state’s likely voters. Sixty-one percent say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the presidential election. While President Obama and Joe Biden hold a 12-point lead over challengers Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan among likely voters, a larger share of Romney supporters (70%) than Obama supporters (60%) say they are more enthusiastic than usual. Before the 2008 presidential election, a majority of likely voters (65%) also expressed this view, but enthusiasm was more widespread among Democrats (76% of Obama supporters, 59% of supporters of John McCain). Excitement about the race at the top of the ballot has implications for other election issues, says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

“The enthusiasm of voters about the presidential election will affect who turns out to vote,” he says. “And that may well make a difference in the outcomes of the statewide propositions.”

Proposition 30 draws strong support from these groups of likely voters:

  • Democrats. A strong majority of Democrats (70%) favor the measure; an equally strong majority of Republicans (70%) oppose it. Independents are more divided (43% yes, 50% no).
  • Younger voters. Voters age 18–34 (70%) are far more likely to support it than are older voters (41% of voters age 35–54, 43% of voters over age 55).
  • Latinos. Support among Latinos (68%) is far higher than among white voters (40%).
  • Those who approve of Governor Brown. The governor’s job approval rating is 45 percent among likely voters. Most who approve of the governor (71%) support Proposition 30. Most who disapprove (70%) oppose the measure.
  • Supporters of President Obama. A strong majority (72%) would vote yes, while a strong majority of Romney supporters (74%) would vote no.

Likely voters with household incomes of $40,000 and over, public school parents, and both women and men are divided on the initiative. Most likely voters (58%) say the outcome of the vote on Proposition 30 is very important to them—a belief held by more than half across parties. This view is more widely held by those who would vote yes (65%) than by those who would vote no (55%).

Proposition 30 is linked to the state budget, which calls for automatic cuts to public schools if the ballot measure fails. Asked about these trigger cuts, a strong majority of likely voters (74%) oppose them. If Proposition 30 fails, how would likely voters prefer to close the resulting multibillion-dollar deficit? They are divided, with 43 percent favoring a mix of spending cuts and tax increases and 40 percent favoring mostly spending cuts. Another 11 percent favor closing the budget gap mainly with tax increases.

Proposition 38 Draws Less Support From Democrats

Proposition 38 has less support than Proposition 30 from Democratic likely voters (53% yes). A strong majority of Republicans (71%) are opposed, as are just over half of independents (53%). Public school parents are divided (44% yes, 46% no). Most men (57%) are opposed, while women are slightly more likely to oppose (48%) than favor the initiative (41%). Those with household incomes of less than $40,000 are far more likely than voters with higher incomes to be in favor. Half of likely voters (50%) say the outcome of the vote on Proposition 38 is very important to them.

Among Proposition 30 supporters, 57 percent would vote for Proposition 38, while 74 percent of Proposition 30 opponents would vote no on Proposition 38. Overall, 28 percent would vote yes on both measures and 32 percent would vote no on both.

Propositions 31, 32 Trail

Proposition 31 would establish a two-year budget, set rules for offsetting new state expenditures and budget cuts by the governor, and allow local governments to change the application of laws governing state-funded programs. Just 24 percent of likely voters say they would vote yes on this initiative (48% no, 28% undecided). These results are similar to September (25% yes, 42% no, 32% undecided). The measure lacks majority support from any party or demographic group. Just 24 percent of likely voters say the outcome of the vote on this measure is very important to them.

Proposition 32 would bar unions, corporations, and government contractors from using money from payroll deductions for political purposes. It would also prohibit union and corporate contributions to candidates and their committees, and bar government contractors from contributing to elected officials or their committees. While 39 percent of likely voters say they would vote yes on the initiative, 53 percent say they would vote no (7% undecided). Voters were more closely divided in September (42% yes, 49% no). Today, a strong majority of Democrats (68%) would vote no, a majority of Republicans would vote yes (56%), and independents are more divided (42% yes, 49% no). How important is the outcome of the vote on Proposition 32? Very important, say 51 percent. Just over half of “yes” voters (56%) and “no” voters (51%) consider it very important—an increase of 11 points on the “no” side since September.

With Tax Increases on Ballot, Trust in Sacramento Is Low

With initiatives that would raise taxes on the November ballot, the PPIC survey asked about four types of taxes. Just 25 percent of likely voters favor raising state personal income taxes—an element of both Propositions 30 and 38. Just 32 percent favor raising the state sales tax—an element of Proposition 30. However, 64 percent favor raising the top rate of the state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians. Proposition 30 would temporarily increase taxes on residents earning over $250,000 annually. Asked about raising the state taxes paid by California corporations, 55 percent of likely voters are in favor.

California voters are considering raising their own taxes at a time when most distrust the government in Sacramento. Only 22 percent say they trust the state government to do what is right just about always or most of the time, and 60 percent say that people in state government waste a lot of taxpayer money. Among those who express this view, 56 percent say they would vote no on Proposition 30. Trust in Washington is no higher: only 25 percent of likely voters say they trust the federal government to do what is right just about always or most of the time, and 60 percent say it wastes a lot of taxpayer money.

Obama Holds 12-Point Lead

The Obama-Biden ticket leads Romney-Ryan 53 percent to 41 percent among likely voters, similar to last month and July. Overwhelming majorities of Democratic and Republican likely voters support their party’s candidate, while independent voters are closely divided (44% Obama, 43% Romney). Obama led Romney by a much wider margin among independents in September (13 points) and July (16 points).

Satisfaction with the choice of candidates in the presidential election has increased steadily, from 49 percent last December to 69 percent today. This is much higher than the 56 percent who said they were satisfied with the candidates in October 2008. Although Democrats are more likely than either Republicans or independents to say they are satisfied with their choice of candidates, satisfaction has increased sharply among Republicans since May (46% May, 69% today), as their party coalesced around Romney. Satisfaction among independents is up 19 points since December (33% to 52%).

Less than two weeks before the election, 54 percent of California likely voters approve of President Obama’s job performance (45% disapprove). His approval rating has declined from a high of 66 percent in May 2009, shortly after he took office. The approval rating of the U.S. Congress remains low, at 15 percent (81% disapprove). When it comes to the outcome of the congressional elections, California likely voters prefer a Congress controlled by Democrats (52%) to one controlled by Republicans (39%).

More Key Findings

  • Brown’s job approval holds steady—page 14
    While Governor Brown’s approval rating among likely voters is similar to what it has been since he took office, disapproval has grown from 20 percent in January 2011 to 35 percent in September 2011 and 43 percent today. The state legislature’s approval rating remains low, at 21 percent.
  • Fewer see state headed in wrong direction—page 15
    Although jobs and the economy continues to be named the most important issue facing Californians and most likely voters continue to believe the state is in a recession, pessimism about the direction of the state has declined from 77 percent in October 2010 to 60 percent today.
  • Overwhelming support for two initiative reforms —page 20
    Most likely voters say the initiative process is in need of changes—40 percent say major changes and 30 percent say minor changes—while 23 percent say it is fine as it is. They support two changes suggested to reform the process.
  • Favorable impressions of Democratic Party hit record high—page 21
    In a bitter partisan campaign year, 53 percent of likely voters have a favorable impression of the Democratic Party, up from 44 percent in September 2011. Fewer view the Republican Party (38%) or Tea Party movement (32%) favorably.


The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,006 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from October 14–21, 2012. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.2 percent for all adults, ±3.6 percent for the 1,320 registered voters, and ±4.0 percent for the 993 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. As a private operating foundation, 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.