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object(Timber\Post)#3711 (44) { ["ImageClass"]=> string(12) "Timber\Image" ["PostClass"]=> string(11) "Timber\Post" ["TermClass"]=> string(11) "Timber\Term" ["object_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["custom"]=> array(5) { ["_wp_attached_file"]=> string(14) "AI_908MBAI.pdf" ["wpmf_size"]=> string(7) "8189721" ["wpmf_filetype"]=> string(3) "pdf" ["wpmf_order"]=> string(1) "0" ["searchwp_content"]=> string(37380) "Supported with funding from The James Irvine Foundation pPIC [ 1 ] THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS1 Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Jennifer Paluch, and Sonja Petek California voters are not happy. They are tired of partisan politics, distrustful of government, and disappointed in the people who run it. They think the nation and state are headed in the wrong direction. They are deeply concerned about the economy, Iraq, immigration, and health care. They want solutions to the state’s governance and finance problems. They have little faith that their elected representatives can rise above partisan gridlock to make things right. At the same time, ironically, many cling to their own partisan predilections. Historically, disgruntled voters have often expressed their exasperation with politics by staying away from the polls. Yet, in recent years, as disaffection has grown, Californians have begun to register and vote in record numbers. What are voters trying to say? What can they expect government to accomplish in the face of their own partisan divisions? This At Issue provides facts and figures on political involvement, partisan lines, sources of voter discontent, and the close division of the electorate. ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 2 Growing Political InvolvemenT In one of their most popular decisions to date, the California State Legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger moved up the 2008 presidential primary from June to February in an effort to give California voters more clout in selecting presidential candidates. Most voters—across party lines—thought that was a good idea.2 And on February 5th, they turned out in record numbers. Just over 9 million voters cast ballots—by far the largest group of primary voters in the state’s history (Table 1). The turnout of nearly 58 percent of registered voters and 40 percent of eligible adults was the highest on record for a California presidential primary since 1980. This turnout was not an anomaly. It tracks with national trends set in motion by competitive races and history-making choices in both parties. It also continues a trend in voting and registration resurgence that began after California’s statewide turnout reached a historic low of 51 percent (7.7 million registered voters) in the November 2002 governor’s election. One year later, registered voters turned out in much higher numbers to recall their just-elected governor in 2003 (9.4 million voters–61% of registered voters). In terms of actual ballots cast, California voters then set a turnout record for presidential elections in 2004 (12.6 million voters) and continued with surprisingly large turnouts in a 2005 special election (8 million voters) and the 2006 governor’s election (8.9 million voters). Even this June’s primary, with a lower-profile ballot, managed to generate about 4.6 million votes.3 At the close of registration before the 2008 presidential primary, Californians set a record for the number of registered voters. The increase continued as primaries took place in other states, and large percentages of California voters reported that they were closely following the presidential election. By May, California voter registration had climbed to 16.1 million.4 If trends persist, California should have historic highs in voter registration and turnout in November 2008. pPIC [ 3 ] TABLE 1. California Voter Turnout Ye a r 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 Presidential Primaries 6,439,629 6,081,777 7,883,385 6,684,421 9,068,415 Presidential Elections 11,374,565 10,263,490 11,142,843 12,589,683 — Sources: California Secretary of State, Statement of Vote, November 2006 and February 2008. If trends persist, California should have historic highs in voter registration and turnout in November 2008. ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 4 Map 1. MANY CALIFORNIANS HAVE WEAK PART Y TIES 2004 Presidential Election 2006 Governor’s Election Kerry-Edwards (Democrat) 54% Bush-Cheney (Republican) 44% Phil Angelides (Democrat) 39% Arnold Schwarzenegger (Republican) 56% Source: California, Secretary of State, Statement of Vote, November 2004. Source: California, Secretary of State, Statement of Vote, November 2006. FIGURE 1. Overall Direction of the United States “Do you think things in the United States are generally going in the right direction or the wrong direction?” 80 Registered Voters Only 70 60 Wrong Direction 50 Right Direction 40 Percent 30 20 10 0 Sept 2003 Sept 2004 Sept 2005 Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. Oct 2006 June 2007 Mar 2008 Disaffection with Party Politics The increases in registration and turnout should not be mistaken as proof of growing enthusiasm for the major political parties, because long-term trends point to their diminishing role. Before the presidential primaries, the share of Democratic and Republican voters dropped from 87.1 percent in 1992, to 80.8 percent in 2000, and then to 76.3 percent in 2008. At the same time, the number of decline-to-state (i.e., independent) voters increased from 1.3 million in 1992 to 3 million in early 2008 (9.7% to 19.4%).5 Although no political party has a majority among registered voters, California is becoming a solidly “Blue State” on the national electoral map because of an 11-point Democratic edge in voter registration and the tendency of most independent voters to say that they lean toward the Democratic Party. Still, the 2003 election and 2006 reelection of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger indicate that many Californians have weak party ties (Map 1). About four in 10 major party voters say that they are “not very strong” Democrats or Republicans, and seven in 10 independents say that they prefer to be unaffiliated. Underlying the resurgence of political participation is widespread disillusionment with the two-party system: A majority of California voters, including many Democratic and Republican voters, believe that the current parties do such a poor job that a third major party is needed.6 Other Sources of Voter Dismay Direction of the Nation/State. The electorate seems to be in a slough of despond, triggering the classic question: How much voter discontent is driven by their declining sense of well-being and how much by the actual inadequacies of government and its leaders? Belief that the nation is heading in the right direction has been steadily eroding for the past five years and is now at its lowest level since we began asking the “direction” question in the PPIC Statewide Surveys (Figure 1). In March 2008, nearly three in four voters said that the nation is headed in the wrong direction; fewer than one in four said that it is headed in the right direction.7 pPIC [ 5 ] ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 6 FIGURE 2. Executive Branch Job Approval R atings “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way that ... is handling his job as (governor of California/president of the United States)?” Registered Voters Only 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Sept 2003 Jan 2004 Jan 2005 Jan 2006 Jan 2007 Mar 2008 * Gray Davis in September 2003, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar from January 2004. Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. President Bush California Governor* Percent Approve pPIC [ 7 ] PPIC Statewide Surveys in the flush late 1990s and early 2000s found voters upbeat about the state of the state. For instance, 62 percent of registered voters said that the state was headed in the right direction in January 2001.8 Then, an economic downturn and state budget deficit led to a different mood. By the time of the 2003 recall election, voters were extremely pessimistic about the direction of their state. Their optimism grew sharply in the first year of Governor Schwarzenegger’s term, had a brief setback during partisan battles between the governor and legislature in 2005, and was restored with bipartisan progress in 2006 and 2007.9 Recently, as the state government has struggled with a large budget deficit, the percentage of voters—about one in four—saying that California is headed in the right direction has dropped to levels not observed since right before the 2003 recall election.10 Although voters disagree on specific policies and preferred solutions, majorities of voters across the political spectrum and demographic categories now believe that the country and state are going in the wrong direction. Recent surveys indicate that these negative views will color the context for voter choices in the fall election.11 Performance of Elected Officials. As they become more pessimistic about the direction of the state and nation, California voters are also losing confidence in their elected representatives, both federal and state officials, executive and legislative. At the executive level, over the last five years, President George Bush’s approval ratings have fallen steadily, from one in two voters to one in four voters saying that they approve of his performance in office (Figure 2). At the state level, also looking over the past five years, approval ratings for Gray Davis in the month before he was recalled in 2003 were extremely low (Figure 2). Assessments of his replacement, Arnold Schwarzenegger, were much higher until a November 2005 special election triggered partisan bickering and legislative gridlock in Sacramento. The governor’s approval ratings recovered to the postrecall levels—but fell back to under 50 percent this year.12 Meanwhile, after the 2006 elections, there was a brief uptick in approval ratings for the U.S. Congress and the California Legislature, raised by initial hopes that they would find bipartisan solutions to Percent Approve ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 8 FIGURE 3. Legislative Branch Job Approval ratings “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way that the (California Legislature/U.S. Congress) is handling its job?” 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Oct 2005 Registered Voters Only Mar 2006 Jan 2007 Mar 2008 U.S. Congress California Legislature Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. FIGURE 4. Government Effectiveness “How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in (Sacramento/Washington) to do what is right?” Registered Voters Only Federal Government 1% 23% State Government 2% 28% 76% 70% Just About Always/Most of the Time Source: PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2008 Only Some/None of the Time Don’t Know pPIC [ 9 ] pressing policy issues (Figure 3). With the failure of those hopes, only about three in 10 California voters now say that they approve of the job the U.S. Congress is doing; ratings have fallen back to the 2006 levels before the Democrats took over as the majority party. Just one in four voters this past May approve of the job the state legislature is doing. This is the lowest approval rating recorded since the 2005 special election. Ratings of the U.S. Congress have also fallen over the past three years.13 Predictably, approval ratings of the executive and legislative leadership differ by party. Yet, surprising numbers of Republicans disapprove of GOP leaders Schwarzenegger and Bush. Moreover, many Democrats are unhappy with the performance of the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and U.S. Congress. Voters are more generous in rating their own federal and state representatives, yet even those approval ratings have declined in the past year.14 General disenchantment with state and federal leadership seems to be the backdrop for widespread interest in the 2008 elections. Distrust of Government. Because government is largely the creature of those who run it, it’s not surprising that California voters’ disappointment with elected officials coincides with its low regard for state and federal government. Trust in the federal government has been steadily waning over the past five years—today, only 23 percent say that they trust the federal government to do what is right always or most of the time (Figure 4). Only 28 percent put their trust in state government.15 One reason for distrust is who the government is perceived to serve. Seventy-two percent of California voters say that the federal government is “mostly run by big interests looking out for themselves” and 66 percent say the same of state government. Furthermore, 67 percent of voters say that the federal government wastes a lot of taxpayers’ money; 59 percent believe that state government does the same. Over time, California voters’ distrust of the federal government has remained high, and distrust of the state government has not substantially improved from the dismal levels before the recall.16 ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 10 This distrust crosses party lines. Democratic and Republican voters agree that the federal and state governments are ineffective in problem-solving, unresponsive to the people’s wishes, and wasteful in spending the taxpayers’ money. Although voters young and old, more or less affluent, male and female, and across racial/ethnic groups differ in what they dislike the most, there is a deep overall distrust of government.17 Policy Concerns. Voters are worried about four major policy issues confronting the state and the nation and apparently share some frustration about how government is and is not responding to those issues. When voters were asked during the primary season to name the issue that they would most like presidential candidates to discuss, four topped the list—the economy, Iraq, immigration, and health care. They also named these same topics (except for Iraq) as important issues facing the state.18 They are also keenly interested in certain government reforms. The economy. Perhaps the most dramatic and significant turnaround since the last presidential and mid-term elections is the perception that the state and national economies are weak (Figure 5). Before voting for president in the fall of 2004 and for governor in 2006, about half of California voters believed that good economic times were ahead. This year, that perception has dropped to 16 percent for the national economy and 13 percent for the state—these are record lows in the 10-year history of the PPIC Statewide Survey. These overwhelmingly negative perceptions cross all political and demographic voter groups. In March, seven in 10 California voters reported that the state was experiencing an economic recession, and few described it as mild. Again, this perception was pervasive across those groups. There are also increased worries about financial issues related to the economic downturn—gasoline prices, the state government’s budget deficit, and the negative effect of the current housing situation on personal finances.19 Iraq. Voters are also disturbed that the war in Iraq, which was declared a “mission accomplished” in 2003, continues to take its toll in American lives and dollars (Figure 6). Since the 2004 election, most California voters have said that things are not going well for the United States in Iraq. Negative perceptions of the U.S. situation in pPIC [ 11 ] Percent Saying Good Times FIGURE 5. Economic Outlook “Turning to economic times (in California), do you think that during the next 12 months we (the United States) will have good times financially or bad times?” Registered Voters Only 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Sept 2003 Sept 2004 Sept 2005 Oct 2006 Jan 2007 Jun 2007 Mar 2008 United States California Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. FIGURE 6. United States Situation in Iraq “In general, how would you say things are going for the U.S. in Iraq?” Registered Voters Only 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Aug 2004 Aug 2005 Sept 2006 Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. June 2007 Mar 2008 Things going not too well/Not at all well Things going very well/Somewhat well Percent ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 12 ... two in three voters favor providing undocumented workers a pathway to citizenship. pPIC [ 13 ] Iraq have declined sharply since the summer of 2007. Nevertheless, the majority of voters still say that they want the troops home as soon as possible and that, overall, the troop surge has not improved the U.S. situation in Iraq. Although there are sharp differences between Republican, Democratic, and independent voters, 30 percent of Republicans now express a negative view of that situation. Most noteworthy is the high degree of consensus among partisan voters that the situation in Iraq is not going “very well” for the United States at this time (3% Democrats, 17% Republicans, and 5% independents).20 Immigration. As federal policymakers hotly debated and then failed to reach consensus on comprehensive immigration reform, immigration remained at the top of voters’ policy concerns. In California, there has been little change in voters’ attitudes toward immigration: They have consistently considered immigrants a benefit to the state because of immigrants’ hard work and job skills. Most California voters would favor a federal policy shift that would allow immigrants who are in the United States illegally to apply for work permits. Moreover, two in three voters favor providing undocumented workers a pathway to citizenship. However, voter groups differ in their support for this type of federal policy change, which would offer illegal immigrants who have been living and working in the United States at least two years the chance to keep their jobs and apply for legal status. Although all voter groups support change in immigration policy, Republicans, whites, and older voters support a policy change on legal residence less than Democrats, Latinos, and younger voters.21 Health care. Considering their consensus over the issue, voters may be particularly riled by government failure to address health care effectively. A bipartisan compromise on expanding health insurance coverage in California failed to become law this year, despite support from the Republican governor and some Democratic leaders in the legislature. Throughout these policy discussions, two in three voters favored a proposal to require that Californians have health insurance, with costs shared by individuals, providers, and employers. Support was stronger among Democrats, independents, younger residents, nonwhites, women, and lower-income voters than among ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 14 Republicans, older, white, men, and upper-income voters. Still, half or more in each of these groups supported this health care reform. Earlier surveys also indicated that voters were in favor of universal health care coverage, although sharper differences were evident across voter groups than in the shared-responsibility proposal.22 Government reforms. Five years after recalling Governor Gray Davis, and in the midst of another fiscal crisis, most California voters agree that they want changes in their state’s governing structure. These include changes in the legislative redistricting process and term limits, and the citizens’ initiative process. Even larger majorities of voters also favor major changes in the way K–12 schools are run and the way state spending and revenues are managed (Figure 7).23 There is even bipartisan consensus among voters on ways to improve the governance structure in California. For example, most voters believe that a state spending limit and budget reserves would help to avoid boom and bust cycles and that the state’s K–12 public schools require both more funding and a more efficient way to increase spending on the most needy classrooms. Many voters also want the drawing of legislative boundaries taken out of the legislature’s hands. They would also prefer to have initiatives reach the ballot only after a thorough vetting process. When it comes to term limits, many voters favor curtailing the powers of elected officials, whose motives they distrust and whose performances they hold in low esteem. Thus, fewer express a need to make major changes in the current term limit structure enacted in 1990.24 The November 2008 ballot includes a legislative redistricting initiative that will test voter willingness to reform the governance structure in light of the low levels of trust and approval. Despite their complaints about the government structure, California voters in recent years have rejected state ballot measures aimed at state budget reforms, K–12 education reforms, redistricting reforms, term limit reforms, and campaign financing reforms. To many voters, these ballot measures were seen as political one-upmanship. Instead, they want governance reforms untainted by special interests and partisan politics. pPIC [ 15 ] Percent FIGURE 7. Governance Reform : Need for Major or Minor Changes 100 90 80 25 70 60 50 40 67 30 20 10 Registered Voters Only 28 31 62 41 Needs minor changes Needs major changes 32 39 36 29 0 State budget Public education Legislative redistricting Citizens' initiatives Term limits Sources: PPIC Statewide Surveys, May 2008 (state budget), April 2008 (K-12 education), September 2007 (legislative redistricting), September 2006 (citizens’ initiatives), and December 2007 (term limits). ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 16 A Closely Divided Electorate It might appear that on some issues voters are looking beyond party positions for policy leadership. In fact, in recent years, many voters have been frustrated by party polarization in the legislature and partisan disagreements between the executive and legislative branches at the federal and state levels. As California voters make their decisions on candidate choices, who do they think will do the best job of handling their top issues? Given the partisan tilt of voter registration and the leanings of independent voters, it is not surprising that California voters prefer the Democratic Party over the Republican Party on each of four issues—the economy, Iraq, immigration, and health care. However, it is only for the issue of health care that almost all of the Democratic voters, a majority of independent voters, and a sizable minority of Republicans believe that the Democratic Party is in the better position to lead in handling the biggest problems.25 On other issues, partisan preferences hold sway: Democratic voters felt as strongly as Republican voters that their party would do a better job of handling the economy, immigration, and Iraq. Independent voters were more likely to choose the Democratic Party over the Republican Party on the economy and Iraq, although fewer than half chose the Democratic Party. On immigration issues, about one-third of independent voters chose the Democratic Party, a similar share chose the Republicans, and another third did not choose either of the two major parties.26 Clearly, then, on many specific issues, the political gridlock in representative government reflects the partisan convictions of a closely divided electorate. When it comes to a social issue like same-sex marriage for example, California voters are divided, with most Democrats in favor and Republicans strongly opposed. On environment issues, most Republican voters favor allowing more oil drilling off the California coast and Democrats oppose it. On energy issues, most Democratic voters oppose building more nuclear energy plants and most Republican voters favor it.27 pPIC [ 17 ] California voters have also been closely divided in recent years over the role of government and the willingness to pay more taxes to support public services. Although about half of voters today would like to see a larger government, an almost equal proportion say that the size of government should shrink. Strong majorities of Republicans want to pay lower taxes and have fewer services, whereas large majorities of Democrats are willing to pay higher taxes for more services.28 Conclusions and Implications When the election is over, who will be left standing—and where? The state’s elected officials will face a leadership challenge—they must work with a legislative process fractured by a reapportionment plan that safeguards partisan districting. At the same time, they must come up with policy solutions that are acceptable to—and gain the trust of—a divided public that increasingly has the final word by making policy at the ballot box. The initiative process gives voters the opportunity to make tough decisions on gay marriage, alternative energy, and legislative redistricting. But, will their decisions be clearcut enough to signal policy directions to the legislature? Or will partisan close-calls sap politicians’ will to reach across the aisle to forge policy solutions? Incumbent elected officials, candidates, and those who advise them would do well to study the signs, as voters may be telegraphing an ultimatum: They are fed up with government they cannot trust and leaders who do not lead, and they are going to do something about it. Finally, the electorate needs to search its collective soul as well. Voters’ own ideological differences help to fuel partisan gridlock. Easing that gridlock—and the sense of dissatisfaction—is also partly in the hands of California voters. ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 18 Notes 1 We acknowledge the research support from Nicole Fox, the helpful reviews by Max Neiman, Paul Lewis, and Joyce Peterson, and the generous funding from The James Irvine Foundation for this project and for grant support for the PPIC Statewide Survey. 2 The PPIC Statewide Survey is an ongoing series conducted by the authors that uses random-digit dial telephone interviewing methods with at least 2,000 California adults per wave. Some of the analyses that follow in this report include individual survey waves; for more information on the methodology, see the PPIC Statewide Survey reports. Some of the analyses involve data aggregated over recent survey waves conducted to provide a large and representative sample of registered voters and age, gender, income, party, and racial /ethnic voter groups. The source for data reported in the accompanying text is PPIC Statewide Survey, Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA, January 2008, including interviews with 1,497 registered voters. 3 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are California Secretary of State, Statement of Vote, November 2006, February 2008, and June 2008; and California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, May 2008. See also Mark Baldassare, Bruce E. Cain, D. E. Apollonio, and Jonathan Cohen, The Season of Our Discontent: Voters’ Views on California Elections, Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA, 2004. 4 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, May 2008; and PPIC Statewide Survey, May 2008, including interviews with 1,448 voters. 5 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are the California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, January 2008. See the discussions about California political parties and independents in Mark Baldassare, California in the New Millennium, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2000; Mark Baldassare, A California State of Mind, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2002; Mark Baldassare and Cheryl Katz, The Coming Age of Direct Democracy, Roman and Littlefield, New York, 2007; Dave Lesher and Mark Baldassare, “California’s Independent Streak,” Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2006; and Mark Baldassare and David Lesher, “California Registers Growing Numbers of Independents,” Sacramento Bee, October 29, 2006. 6 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are “California’s Independent Voters,” Just the Facts, Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA, January 2008; and PPIC Statewide Survey, October 2006 (1,572 voters) and May 2008 (1,448 voters). 7 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2003 (1,501 registered voters), September 2004 (1,636 voters), September 2005 (1,572 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), June 2007 (1,451 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 8 See Mark Baldassare, A California State of Mind, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2002; and PPIC Statewide Survey, January 2001 (1,593 registered voters). 9 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2003 (1,501 voters), September 2004 (1,636 voters), September 2005 (1,572 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), and June 2007 (1,451 voters). 10 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2008 (1,450 ), May 2008 (1,448 voters), and June 2008 (1,835 voters). 11 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2008 (1,450 voters) and June 2008 (1,835 voters). 12 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2003 (1,501 voters), January 2004 (1,489 voters), January 2005 (1,613 voters), January 2006 (1,602 voters), January 2007 (1,567 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). See a review of earlier approval ratings in Mark Baldassare, A California State of Mind, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2002. 13 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, August 2003 (1,540 voters), January 2004 (1,489 voters), October 2005 (1,580 voters), March 2006 (1,490 voters), January 2007 (1,567 voters), March 2008 (1,450 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). 14 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2007 (1,542 voters), December 2007 (1,442 voters), March 2008 (1,450 voters), April 2008 (1,962 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). pPIC [ 19 ] 15 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2003 (1,501 voters), January 2004 (1,489 voters), February 2004 (1,499), August 2005 (1,556 voters), October 2005 (1,580 voters), August 2006 (1,530 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 16 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, June 2003 (1,424 voters), January 2004 (1,489 voters), February 2004 (1,499 voters), May 2004 (1,552 voters), May 2005 (1,586 voters), August 2005 (1,556 voters), October 2005 (1,580 voters), August 2006 (1,530 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 17 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2007 (1,511 voters) and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 18 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, December 2007 (1,442 voters). 19 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2004 (1,636 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 20 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, August 2004 (1,595 voters), August 2005 (1,556 voters), September 2006 (1,566 voters), June 2007 (1,451 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 21 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2005 (1,572 voters), September 2006 (1,566 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 22 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2004 (1,636 voters), September 2005 (1,572 voters), January 2007 (1,567 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), June 2007 (1,451 voters), September 2007 (1,511 voters), and December 2007 (1,442 voters). 23 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2006 (1,566 voters), September 2007 (1,511 voters), December 2007 (1,442 voters), April 2008 (1,962 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). 24 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, October 2005 (1,580 voters), September 2006 (1,566 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), September 2007 (1,511 voters), December 2007 (1,442 voters), April 2008 (1,962 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). 25 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, January 2007 (1,567 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), June 2007 (1,451 voters), September 2007 (1,511 voters), December 2007 (1,442 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 26 The source for data reported in the accompanying text is PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2008 (1,450 voters). 27 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, June 2007 (1,451 voters) and July 2007 (1,814 voters). See also Morris P. Fiorina with Samuel J. Abrams and Jeremy C. Pope, Culture War: The Myth of a Polarized America, Pearson Longman, New York, 2006. 28 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, May 2004 (1,552 voters), May 2005 (1,586 voters), May 2006 (1,484 voters), May 2007 (1,456 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 20 PPIC EXPERTS Mark Baldassare President and CEO, Miller Chair, and Sur vey Director Expertise • Public opinion • Public policy preferences • Elections • State initiatives • State and local government relations • Political participation • Demographics Education Ph.D. (1976 ), sociology, University of California, Berkeley M.A. (1973), sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara Dean Bonner Sur vey Research Associate, 415.291.4497, bonner@ ppic.org Expertise Education • Public opinion and sur vey research • Latino and African American political attitudes • Political trust • Political participation and voting behavior M.A. (2003), political science, University of New Orleans Jennifer Paluch Sur vey Research Associate, 415.291.4416, paluch@ ppic.org Expertise Education • Public opinion research • Public policy preferences and ballot choices • Cuban American political attitudes • Geospatial analysis M.A. (2002), geography, San Diego State University pPIC [ 21 ] Sonja Petek Sur vey Research Associate, 415.291.4408, petek@ ppic.org Expertise Education • Public opinion research and telephone sur vey methodology • Public policy preferences and ballot choices • Public attitudes on education, environment, and health issues B.A. (1998), political science, Stanford University Eric McGhee Research Fellow, 415.291.4439, mcghee @ ppic.org Expertise • Elections – California redistricting reform – State and local voter initiatives – Voting behavior • Legislative behavior – Legislative organization – Responsiveness to public opinion – State term limits • Political participation • Political parties and party polarization • Polling and public opinion Education Ph.D. (2003) and M.A. (1998 ), political science, University of California, Berkeley RELATED PPIC PUBLICATIONS At Issue: California’s Post-Partisan Future, January 2008 At Issue: California’s Exclusive Electorate, September 2006 The Season of Our Discontent: Voters’ Views on California Elections, October 2004 A California State of Mind: The Conflicted Voter in a Changing World, 2002 California in the New Millennium: The Changing Social and Political Landscape, 2000 PPIC Statewide Survey series Just the Facts series ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 22 PPIC BOARD OF DIRECTORS Thomas C. Sutton, Chair Retired Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Pacific Life Insurance Company Mark Baldassare President and Chief Executive Officer Public Policy Institute of California Ruben Barrales President and Chief Executive Officer San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Gary K. Hart Former State Senator and Secretary of Education State of California Walter B. Hewlett Director Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities Donna Lucas Chief Executive Officer Lucas Public Affairs Leon E. Panetta Director The Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy Ki Suh Park Design and Managing Partner Gruen Associates Constance L. Rice Co-Director The Advancement Project Raymond L. Watson Vice Chairman of the Board Emeritus The Irvine Company Carol Whiteside President Emeritus Great Valley Center pPIC [ 23 ] This publication was supported with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. © September 2008 by Public Policy Institute of California. All rights reserved. San Francisco, CA Short sections of text, not to exceed three paragraphs, may be quoted without written permission provided that full attribution is given to the source and the above copyright notice is included. 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. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff, officers, or Board of Directors of the Public Policy Institute of California. Download this publication free of charge at www.ppic.org P ublic P olic y I nstitut e of C alifornia • 500 Wash ington Str e e t, S uit e 600 • San F rancisco, C A 94111 p 415.291.4400 • f 415.291.4401 • www.ppic.org PPIC sacra m e nto c e nt e r • se nator offic e building • 1121 L str e e t, S uit e 801 • Sacra m e nto, C A 95814 p 916.440.1120 • f 916.440.1121" } ["___content":protected]=> string(106) "

AI 908MBAI

" ["_permalink":protected]=> string(75) "https://www.ppic.org/publication/the-state-of-california-voters/ai_908mbai/" ["_next":protected]=> array(0) { } ["_prev":protected]=> array(0) { } ["_css_class":protected]=> NULL ["id"]=> int(8670) ["ID"]=> int(8670) ["post_author"]=> string(1) "1" ["post_content"]=> string(0) "" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2017-05-20 02:39:41" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(3943) ["post_status"]=> string(7) "inherit" ["post_title"]=> string(10) "AI 908MBAI" ["post_type"]=> string(10) "attachment" ["slug"]=> string(10) "ai_908mbai" ["__type":protected]=> NULL ["_wp_attached_file"]=> string(14) "AI_908MBAI.pdf" ["wpmf_size"]=> string(7) "8189721" ["wpmf_filetype"]=> string(3) "pdf" ["wpmf_order"]=> string(1) "0" ["searchwp_content"]=> string(37380) "Supported with funding from The James Irvine Foundation pPIC [ 1 ] THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS1 Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Jennifer Paluch, and Sonja Petek California voters are not happy. They are tired of partisan politics, distrustful of government, and disappointed in the people who run it. They think the nation and state are headed in the wrong direction. They are deeply concerned about the economy, Iraq, immigration, and health care. They want solutions to the state’s governance and finance problems. They have little faith that their elected representatives can rise above partisan gridlock to make things right. At the same time, ironically, many cling to their own partisan predilections. Historically, disgruntled voters have often expressed their exasperation with politics by staying away from the polls. Yet, in recent years, as disaffection has grown, Californians have begun to register and vote in record numbers. What are voters trying to say? What can they expect government to accomplish in the face of their own partisan divisions? This At Issue provides facts and figures on political involvement, partisan lines, sources of voter discontent, and the close division of the electorate. ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 2 Growing Political InvolvemenT In one of their most popular decisions to date, the California State Legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger moved up the 2008 presidential primary from June to February in an effort to give California voters more clout in selecting presidential candidates. Most voters—across party lines—thought that was a good idea.2 And on February 5th, they turned out in record numbers. Just over 9 million voters cast ballots—by far the largest group of primary voters in the state’s history (Table 1). The turnout of nearly 58 percent of registered voters and 40 percent of eligible adults was the highest on record for a California presidential primary since 1980. This turnout was not an anomaly. It tracks with national trends set in motion by competitive races and history-making choices in both parties. It also continues a trend in voting and registration resurgence that began after California’s statewide turnout reached a historic low of 51 percent (7.7 million registered voters) in the November 2002 governor’s election. One year later, registered voters turned out in much higher numbers to recall their just-elected governor in 2003 (9.4 million voters–61% of registered voters). In terms of actual ballots cast, California voters then set a turnout record for presidential elections in 2004 (12.6 million voters) and continued with surprisingly large turnouts in a 2005 special election (8 million voters) and the 2006 governor’s election (8.9 million voters). Even this June’s primary, with a lower-profile ballot, managed to generate about 4.6 million votes.3 At the close of registration before the 2008 presidential primary, Californians set a record for the number of registered voters. The increase continued as primaries took place in other states, and large percentages of California voters reported that they were closely following the presidential election. By May, California voter registration had climbed to 16.1 million.4 If trends persist, California should have historic highs in voter registration and turnout in November 2008. pPIC [ 3 ] TABLE 1. California Voter Turnout Ye a r 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 Presidential Primaries 6,439,629 6,081,777 7,883,385 6,684,421 9,068,415 Presidential Elections 11,374,565 10,263,490 11,142,843 12,589,683 — Sources: California Secretary of State, Statement of Vote, November 2006 and February 2008. If trends persist, California should have historic highs in voter registration and turnout in November 2008. ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 4 Map 1. MANY CALIFORNIANS HAVE WEAK PART Y TIES 2004 Presidential Election 2006 Governor’s Election Kerry-Edwards (Democrat) 54% Bush-Cheney (Republican) 44% Phil Angelides (Democrat) 39% Arnold Schwarzenegger (Republican) 56% Source: California, Secretary of State, Statement of Vote, November 2004. Source: California, Secretary of State, Statement of Vote, November 2006. FIGURE 1. Overall Direction of the United States “Do you think things in the United States are generally going in the right direction or the wrong direction?” 80 Registered Voters Only 70 60 Wrong Direction 50 Right Direction 40 Percent 30 20 10 0 Sept 2003 Sept 2004 Sept 2005 Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. Oct 2006 June 2007 Mar 2008 Disaffection with Party Politics The increases in registration and turnout should not be mistaken as proof of growing enthusiasm for the major political parties, because long-term trends point to their diminishing role. Before the presidential primaries, the share of Democratic and Republican voters dropped from 87.1 percent in 1992, to 80.8 percent in 2000, and then to 76.3 percent in 2008. At the same time, the number of decline-to-state (i.e., independent) voters increased from 1.3 million in 1992 to 3 million in early 2008 (9.7% to 19.4%).5 Although no political party has a majority among registered voters, California is becoming a solidly “Blue State” on the national electoral map because of an 11-point Democratic edge in voter registration and the tendency of most independent voters to say that they lean toward the Democratic Party. Still, the 2003 election and 2006 reelection of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger indicate that many Californians have weak party ties (Map 1). About four in 10 major party voters say that they are “not very strong” Democrats or Republicans, and seven in 10 independents say that they prefer to be unaffiliated. Underlying the resurgence of political participation is widespread disillusionment with the two-party system: A majority of California voters, including many Democratic and Republican voters, believe that the current parties do such a poor job that a third major party is needed.6 Other Sources of Voter Dismay Direction of the Nation/State. The electorate seems to be in a slough of despond, triggering the classic question: How much voter discontent is driven by their declining sense of well-being and how much by the actual inadequacies of government and its leaders? Belief that the nation is heading in the right direction has been steadily eroding for the past five years and is now at its lowest level since we began asking the “direction” question in the PPIC Statewide Surveys (Figure 1). In March 2008, nearly three in four voters said that the nation is headed in the wrong direction; fewer than one in four said that it is headed in the right direction.7 pPIC [ 5 ] ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 6 FIGURE 2. Executive Branch Job Approval R atings “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way that ... is handling his job as (governor of California/president of the United States)?” Registered Voters Only 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Sept 2003 Jan 2004 Jan 2005 Jan 2006 Jan 2007 Mar 2008 * Gray Davis in September 2003, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar from January 2004. Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. President Bush California Governor* Percent Approve pPIC [ 7 ] PPIC Statewide Surveys in the flush late 1990s and early 2000s found voters upbeat about the state of the state. For instance, 62 percent of registered voters said that the state was headed in the right direction in January 2001.8 Then, an economic downturn and state budget deficit led to a different mood. By the time of the 2003 recall election, voters were extremely pessimistic about the direction of their state. Their optimism grew sharply in the first year of Governor Schwarzenegger’s term, had a brief setback during partisan battles between the governor and legislature in 2005, and was restored with bipartisan progress in 2006 and 2007.9 Recently, as the state government has struggled with a large budget deficit, the percentage of voters—about one in four—saying that California is headed in the right direction has dropped to levels not observed since right before the 2003 recall election.10 Although voters disagree on specific policies and preferred solutions, majorities of voters across the political spectrum and demographic categories now believe that the country and state are going in the wrong direction. Recent surveys indicate that these negative views will color the context for voter choices in the fall election.11 Performance of Elected Officials. As they become more pessimistic about the direction of the state and nation, California voters are also losing confidence in their elected representatives, both federal and state officials, executive and legislative. At the executive level, over the last five years, President George Bush’s approval ratings have fallen steadily, from one in two voters to one in four voters saying that they approve of his performance in office (Figure 2). At the state level, also looking over the past five years, approval ratings for Gray Davis in the month before he was recalled in 2003 were extremely low (Figure 2). Assessments of his replacement, Arnold Schwarzenegger, were much higher until a November 2005 special election triggered partisan bickering and legislative gridlock in Sacramento. The governor’s approval ratings recovered to the postrecall levels—but fell back to under 50 percent this year.12 Meanwhile, after the 2006 elections, there was a brief uptick in approval ratings for the U.S. Congress and the California Legislature, raised by initial hopes that they would find bipartisan solutions to Percent Approve ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 8 FIGURE 3. Legislative Branch Job Approval ratings “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way that the (California Legislature/U.S. Congress) is handling its job?” 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Oct 2005 Registered Voters Only Mar 2006 Jan 2007 Mar 2008 U.S. Congress California Legislature Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. FIGURE 4. Government Effectiveness “How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in (Sacramento/Washington) to do what is right?” Registered Voters Only Federal Government 1% 23% State Government 2% 28% 76% 70% Just About Always/Most of the Time Source: PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2008 Only Some/None of the Time Don’t Know pPIC [ 9 ] pressing policy issues (Figure 3). With the failure of those hopes, only about three in 10 California voters now say that they approve of the job the U.S. Congress is doing; ratings have fallen back to the 2006 levels before the Democrats took over as the majority party. Just one in four voters this past May approve of the job the state legislature is doing. This is the lowest approval rating recorded since the 2005 special election. Ratings of the U.S. Congress have also fallen over the past three years.13 Predictably, approval ratings of the executive and legislative leadership differ by party. Yet, surprising numbers of Republicans disapprove of GOP leaders Schwarzenegger and Bush. Moreover, many Democrats are unhappy with the performance of the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and U.S. Congress. Voters are more generous in rating their own federal and state representatives, yet even those approval ratings have declined in the past year.14 General disenchantment with state and federal leadership seems to be the backdrop for widespread interest in the 2008 elections. Distrust of Government. Because government is largely the creature of those who run it, it’s not surprising that California voters’ disappointment with elected officials coincides with its low regard for state and federal government. Trust in the federal government has been steadily waning over the past five years—today, only 23 percent say that they trust the federal government to do what is right always or most of the time (Figure 4). Only 28 percent put their trust in state government.15 One reason for distrust is who the government is perceived to serve. Seventy-two percent of California voters say that the federal government is “mostly run by big interests looking out for themselves” and 66 percent say the same of state government. Furthermore, 67 percent of voters say that the federal government wastes a lot of taxpayers’ money; 59 percent believe that state government does the same. Over time, California voters’ distrust of the federal government has remained high, and distrust of the state government has not substantially improved from the dismal levels before the recall.16 ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 10 This distrust crosses party lines. Democratic and Republican voters agree that the federal and state governments are ineffective in problem-solving, unresponsive to the people’s wishes, and wasteful in spending the taxpayers’ money. Although voters young and old, more or less affluent, male and female, and across racial/ethnic groups differ in what they dislike the most, there is a deep overall distrust of government.17 Policy Concerns. Voters are worried about four major policy issues confronting the state and the nation and apparently share some frustration about how government is and is not responding to those issues. When voters were asked during the primary season to name the issue that they would most like presidential candidates to discuss, four topped the list—the economy, Iraq, immigration, and health care. They also named these same topics (except for Iraq) as important issues facing the state.18 They are also keenly interested in certain government reforms. The economy. Perhaps the most dramatic and significant turnaround since the last presidential and mid-term elections is the perception that the state and national economies are weak (Figure 5). Before voting for president in the fall of 2004 and for governor in 2006, about half of California voters believed that good economic times were ahead. This year, that perception has dropped to 16 percent for the national economy and 13 percent for the state—these are record lows in the 10-year history of the PPIC Statewide Survey. These overwhelmingly negative perceptions cross all political and demographic voter groups. In March, seven in 10 California voters reported that the state was experiencing an economic recession, and few described it as mild. Again, this perception was pervasive across those groups. There are also increased worries about financial issues related to the economic downturn—gasoline prices, the state government’s budget deficit, and the negative effect of the current housing situation on personal finances.19 Iraq. Voters are also disturbed that the war in Iraq, which was declared a “mission accomplished” in 2003, continues to take its toll in American lives and dollars (Figure 6). Since the 2004 election, most California voters have said that things are not going well for the United States in Iraq. Negative perceptions of the U.S. situation in pPIC [ 11 ] Percent Saying Good Times FIGURE 5. Economic Outlook “Turning to economic times (in California), do you think that during the next 12 months we (the United States) will have good times financially or bad times?” Registered Voters Only 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Sept 2003 Sept 2004 Sept 2005 Oct 2006 Jan 2007 Jun 2007 Mar 2008 United States California Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. FIGURE 6. United States Situation in Iraq “In general, how would you say things are going for the U.S. in Iraq?” Registered Voters Only 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Aug 2004 Aug 2005 Sept 2006 Source: PPIC Statewide Surveys. June 2007 Mar 2008 Things going not too well/Not at all well Things going very well/Somewhat well Percent ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 12 ... two in three voters favor providing undocumented workers a pathway to citizenship. pPIC [ 13 ] Iraq have declined sharply since the summer of 2007. Nevertheless, the majority of voters still say that they want the troops home as soon as possible and that, overall, the troop surge has not improved the U.S. situation in Iraq. Although there are sharp differences between Republican, Democratic, and independent voters, 30 percent of Republicans now express a negative view of that situation. Most noteworthy is the high degree of consensus among partisan voters that the situation in Iraq is not going “very well” for the United States at this time (3% Democrats, 17% Republicans, and 5% independents).20 Immigration. As federal policymakers hotly debated and then failed to reach consensus on comprehensive immigration reform, immigration remained at the top of voters’ policy concerns. In California, there has been little change in voters’ attitudes toward immigration: They have consistently considered immigrants a benefit to the state because of immigrants’ hard work and job skills. Most California voters would favor a federal policy shift that would allow immigrants who are in the United States illegally to apply for work permits. Moreover, two in three voters favor providing undocumented workers a pathway to citizenship. However, voter groups differ in their support for this type of federal policy change, which would offer illegal immigrants who have been living and working in the United States at least two years the chance to keep their jobs and apply for legal status. Although all voter groups support change in immigration policy, Republicans, whites, and older voters support a policy change on legal residence less than Democrats, Latinos, and younger voters.21 Health care. Considering their consensus over the issue, voters may be particularly riled by government failure to address health care effectively. A bipartisan compromise on expanding health insurance coverage in California failed to become law this year, despite support from the Republican governor and some Democratic leaders in the legislature. Throughout these policy discussions, two in three voters favored a proposal to require that Californians have health insurance, with costs shared by individuals, providers, and employers. Support was stronger among Democrats, independents, younger residents, nonwhites, women, and lower-income voters than among ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 14 Republicans, older, white, men, and upper-income voters. Still, half or more in each of these groups supported this health care reform. Earlier surveys also indicated that voters were in favor of universal health care coverage, although sharper differences were evident across voter groups than in the shared-responsibility proposal.22 Government reforms. Five years after recalling Governor Gray Davis, and in the midst of another fiscal crisis, most California voters agree that they want changes in their state’s governing structure. These include changes in the legislative redistricting process and term limits, and the citizens’ initiative process. Even larger majorities of voters also favor major changes in the way K–12 schools are run and the way state spending and revenues are managed (Figure 7).23 There is even bipartisan consensus among voters on ways to improve the governance structure in California. For example, most voters believe that a state spending limit and budget reserves would help to avoid boom and bust cycles and that the state’s K–12 public schools require both more funding and a more efficient way to increase spending on the most needy classrooms. Many voters also want the drawing of legislative boundaries taken out of the legislature’s hands. They would also prefer to have initiatives reach the ballot only after a thorough vetting process. When it comes to term limits, many voters favor curtailing the powers of elected officials, whose motives they distrust and whose performances they hold in low esteem. Thus, fewer express a need to make major changes in the current term limit structure enacted in 1990.24 The November 2008 ballot includes a legislative redistricting initiative that will test voter willingness to reform the governance structure in light of the low levels of trust and approval. Despite their complaints about the government structure, California voters in recent years have rejected state ballot measures aimed at state budget reforms, K–12 education reforms, redistricting reforms, term limit reforms, and campaign financing reforms. To many voters, these ballot measures were seen as political one-upmanship. Instead, they want governance reforms untainted by special interests and partisan politics. pPIC [ 15 ] Percent FIGURE 7. Governance Reform : Need for Major or Minor Changes 100 90 80 25 70 60 50 40 67 30 20 10 Registered Voters Only 28 31 62 41 Needs minor changes Needs major changes 32 39 36 29 0 State budget Public education Legislative redistricting Citizens' initiatives Term limits Sources: PPIC Statewide Surveys, May 2008 (state budget), April 2008 (K-12 education), September 2007 (legislative redistricting), September 2006 (citizens’ initiatives), and December 2007 (term limits). ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 16 A Closely Divided Electorate It might appear that on some issues voters are looking beyond party positions for policy leadership. In fact, in recent years, many voters have been frustrated by party polarization in the legislature and partisan disagreements between the executive and legislative branches at the federal and state levels. As California voters make their decisions on candidate choices, who do they think will do the best job of handling their top issues? Given the partisan tilt of voter registration and the leanings of independent voters, it is not surprising that California voters prefer the Democratic Party over the Republican Party on each of four issues—the economy, Iraq, immigration, and health care. However, it is only for the issue of health care that almost all of the Democratic voters, a majority of independent voters, and a sizable minority of Republicans believe that the Democratic Party is in the better position to lead in handling the biggest problems.25 On other issues, partisan preferences hold sway: Democratic voters felt as strongly as Republican voters that their party would do a better job of handling the economy, immigration, and Iraq. Independent voters were more likely to choose the Democratic Party over the Republican Party on the economy and Iraq, although fewer than half chose the Democratic Party. On immigration issues, about one-third of independent voters chose the Democratic Party, a similar share chose the Republicans, and another third did not choose either of the two major parties.26 Clearly, then, on many specific issues, the political gridlock in representative government reflects the partisan convictions of a closely divided electorate. When it comes to a social issue like same-sex marriage for example, California voters are divided, with most Democrats in favor and Republicans strongly opposed. On environment issues, most Republican voters favor allowing more oil drilling off the California coast and Democrats oppose it. On energy issues, most Democratic voters oppose building more nuclear energy plants and most Republican voters favor it.27 pPIC [ 17 ] California voters have also been closely divided in recent years over the role of government and the willingness to pay more taxes to support public services. Although about half of voters today would like to see a larger government, an almost equal proportion say that the size of government should shrink. Strong majorities of Republicans want to pay lower taxes and have fewer services, whereas large majorities of Democrats are willing to pay higher taxes for more services.28 Conclusions and Implications When the election is over, who will be left standing—and where? The state’s elected officials will face a leadership challenge—they must work with a legislative process fractured by a reapportionment plan that safeguards partisan districting. At the same time, they must come up with policy solutions that are acceptable to—and gain the trust of—a divided public that increasingly has the final word by making policy at the ballot box. The initiative process gives voters the opportunity to make tough decisions on gay marriage, alternative energy, and legislative redistricting. But, will their decisions be clearcut enough to signal policy directions to the legislature? Or will partisan close-calls sap politicians’ will to reach across the aisle to forge policy solutions? Incumbent elected officials, candidates, and those who advise them would do well to study the signs, as voters may be telegraphing an ultimatum: They are fed up with government they cannot trust and leaders who do not lead, and they are going to do something about it. Finally, the electorate needs to search its collective soul as well. Voters’ own ideological differences help to fuel partisan gridlock. Easing that gridlock—and the sense of dissatisfaction—is also partly in the hands of California voters. ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 18 Notes 1 We acknowledge the research support from Nicole Fox, the helpful reviews by Max Neiman, Paul Lewis, and Joyce Peterson, and the generous funding from The James Irvine Foundation for this project and for grant support for the PPIC Statewide Survey. 2 The PPIC Statewide Survey is an ongoing series conducted by the authors that uses random-digit dial telephone interviewing methods with at least 2,000 California adults per wave. Some of the analyses that follow in this report include individual survey waves; for more information on the methodology, see the PPIC Statewide Survey reports. Some of the analyses involve data aggregated over recent survey waves conducted to provide a large and representative sample of registered voters and age, gender, income, party, and racial /ethnic voter groups. The source for data reported in the accompanying text is PPIC Statewide Survey, Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA, January 2008, including interviews with 1,497 registered voters. 3 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are California Secretary of State, Statement of Vote, November 2006, February 2008, and June 2008; and California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, May 2008. See also Mark Baldassare, Bruce E. Cain, D. E. Apollonio, and Jonathan Cohen, The Season of Our Discontent: Voters’ Views on California Elections, Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA, 2004. 4 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, May 2008; and PPIC Statewide Survey, May 2008, including interviews with 1,448 voters. 5 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are the California Secretary of State, Report of Registration, January 2008. See the discussions about California political parties and independents in Mark Baldassare, California in the New Millennium, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2000; Mark Baldassare, A California State of Mind, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2002; Mark Baldassare and Cheryl Katz, The Coming Age of Direct Democracy, Roman and Littlefield, New York, 2007; Dave Lesher and Mark Baldassare, “California’s Independent Streak,” Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2006; and Mark Baldassare and David Lesher, “California Registers Growing Numbers of Independents,” Sacramento Bee, October 29, 2006. 6 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are “California’s Independent Voters,” Just the Facts, Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA, January 2008; and PPIC Statewide Survey, October 2006 (1,572 voters) and May 2008 (1,448 voters). 7 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2003 (1,501 registered voters), September 2004 (1,636 voters), September 2005 (1,572 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), June 2007 (1,451 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 8 See Mark Baldassare, A California State of Mind, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2002; and PPIC Statewide Survey, January 2001 (1,593 registered voters). 9 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2003 (1,501 voters), September 2004 (1,636 voters), September 2005 (1,572 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), and June 2007 (1,451 voters). 10 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2008 (1,450 ), May 2008 (1,448 voters), and June 2008 (1,835 voters). 11 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2008 (1,450 voters) and June 2008 (1,835 voters). 12 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2003 (1,501 voters), January 2004 (1,489 voters), January 2005 (1,613 voters), January 2006 (1,602 voters), January 2007 (1,567 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). See a review of earlier approval ratings in Mark Baldassare, A California State of Mind, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2002. 13 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, August 2003 (1,540 voters), January 2004 (1,489 voters), October 2005 (1,580 voters), March 2006 (1,490 voters), January 2007 (1,567 voters), March 2008 (1,450 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). 14 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2007 (1,542 voters), December 2007 (1,442 voters), March 2008 (1,450 voters), April 2008 (1,962 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). pPIC [ 19 ] 15 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2003 (1,501 voters), January 2004 (1,489 voters), February 2004 (1,499), August 2005 (1,556 voters), October 2005 (1,580 voters), August 2006 (1,530 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 16 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, June 2003 (1,424 voters), January 2004 (1,489 voters), February 2004 (1,499 voters), May 2004 (1,552 voters), May 2005 (1,586 voters), August 2005 (1,556 voters), October 2005 (1,580 voters), August 2006 (1,530 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 17 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2007 (1,511 voters) and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 18 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, December 2007 (1,442 voters). 19 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2004 (1,636 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 20 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, August 2004 (1,595 voters), August 2005 (1,556 voters), September 2006 (1,566 voters), June 2007 (1,451 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 21 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2005 (1,572 voters), September 2006 (1,566 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 22 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2004 (1,636 voters), September 2005 (1,572 voters), January 2007 (1,567 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), June 2007 (1,451 voters), September 2007 (1,511 voters), and December 2007 (1,442 voters). 23 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, September 2006 (1,566 voters), September 2007 (1,511 voters), December 2007 (1,442 voters), April 2008 (1,962 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). 24 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, October 2005 (1,580 voters), September 2006 (1,566 voters), October 2006 (1,572 voters), September 2007 (1,511 voters), December 2007 (1,442 voters), April 2008 (1,962 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). 25 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, January 2007 (1,567 voters), March 2007 (1,542 voters), June 2007 (1,451 voters), September 2007 (1,511 voters), December 2007 (1,442 voters), and March 2008 (1,450 voters). 26 The source for data reported in the accompanying text is PPIC Statewide Survey, March 2008 (1,450 voters). 27 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, June 2007 (1,451 voters) and July 2007 (1,814 voters). See also Morris P. Fiorina with Samuel J. Abrams and Jeremy C. Pope, Culture War: The Myth of a Polarized America, Pearson Longman, New York, 2006. 28 The sources for data reported in the accompanying text are PPIC Statewide Survey, May 2004 (1,552 voters), May 2005 (1,586 voters), May 2006 (1,484 voters), May 2007 (1,456 voters), and May 2008 (1,448 voters). ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 20 PPIC EXPERTS Mark Baldassare President and CEO, Miller Chair, and Sur vey Director Expertise • Public opinion • Public policy preferences • Elections • State initiatives • State and local government relations • Political participation • Demographics Education Ph.D. (1976 ), sociology, University of California, Berkeley M.A. (1973), sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara Dean Bonner Sur vey Research Associate, 415.291.4497, bonner@ ppic.org Expertise Education • Public opinion and sur vey research • Latino and African American political attitudes • Political trust • Political participation and voting behavior M.A. (2003), political science, University of New Orleans Jennifer Paluch Sur vey Research Associate, 415.291.4416, paluch@ ppic.org Expertise Education • Public opinion research • Public policy preferences and ballot choices • Cuban American political attitudes • Geospatial analysis M.A. (2002), geography, San Diego State University pPIC [ 21 ] Sonja Petek Sur vey Research Associate, 415.291.4408, petek@ ppic.org Expertise Education • Public opinion research and telephone sur vey methodology • Public policy preferences and ballot choices • Public attitudes on education, environment, and health issues B.A. (1998), political science, Stanford University Eric McGhee Research Fellow, 415.291.4439, mcghee @ ppic.org Expertise • Elections – California redistricting reform – State and local voter initiatives – Voting behavior • Legislative behavior – Legislative organization – Responsiveness to public opinion – State term limits • Political participation • Political parties and party polarization • Polling and public opinion Education Ph.D. (2003) and M.A. (1998 ), political science, University of California, Berkeley RELATED PPIC PUBLICATIONS At Issue: California’s Post-Partisan Future, January 2008 At Issue: California’s Exclusive Electorate, September 2006 The Season of Our Discontent: Voters’ Views on California Elections, October 2004 A California State of Mind: The Conflicted Voter in a Changing World, 2002 California in the New Millennium: The Changing Social and Political Landscape, 2000 PPIC Statewide Survey series Just the Facts series ATISSUE [ THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA VOTERS ] 22 PPIC BOARD OF DIRECTORS Thomas C. Sutton, Chair Retired Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Pacific Life Insurance Company Mark Baldassare President and Chief Executive Officer Public Policy Institute of California Ruben Barrales President and Chief Executive Officer San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Gary K. Hart Former State Senator and Secretary of Education State of California Walter B. Hewlett Director Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities Donna Lucas Chief Executive Officer Lucas Public Affairs Leon E. Panetta Director The Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy Ki Suh Park Design and Managing Partner Gruen Associates Constance L. Rice Co-Director The Advancement Project Raymond L. Watson Vice Chairman of the Board Emeritus The Irvine Company Carol Whiteside President Emeritus Great Valley Center pPIC [ 23 ] This publication was supported with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. © September 2008 by Public Policy Institute of California. All rights reserved. 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