Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Reason-Rupe Poll: California Voters Moving Towards Wisconsin-Like Government Reforms

Propositions 30 and 32 too close to call; Prop. 38 trails; Obama leads Romney 53-38 and Feinstein leads Emken 60-34


California's Proposition 30 and Proposition 32 are too close to call, according to a new Reason-Rupe statewide poll of likely voters that finds 7 percent have already cast their ballots. Reason-Rupe finds 50 percent of likely voters intend to vote "yes" and 46 percent say they'll vote "no" on Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's initiative to raise sales and income taxes. 

As Prop. 30's support slips, there are emerging signs that even California's Democratic-leaning electorate has grown weary of the state's tax increases and may be ready for some Wisconsin-like reforms.

Adjusted for inflation, California's government spending increased 42 percent per capita from 2000 to 2010, but the Reason-Rupe poll finds that just 14 percent of likely voters believe California's government spending over that decade improved the quality of life in the state. In fact, 52 percent say the increase in state spending actually decreased the quality of life and 28 percent feel it made no impact. As a result, 56 percent of Californians favor reducing state government spending to what was spent per capita in 2000 and 25 percent oppose going back to 2000 spending levels.

The poll's sample was made up of 44 percent Democrats, 26 percent Republicans and 24 percent independents. And yet, 62 percent support reducing the number of state government employees, while just 33 percent oppose cutting the state workforce.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed say government regulations often do more harm than good. And an even higher number, 65 percent of likely voters, believe the laws and regulations passed by the state legislature make it more likely that businesses will move their jobs to other states. Merely 24 percent think the legislature's actions help create jobs in California.

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted live interviews with 696 adults in California, including 508 likely voters, via landlines (467) and cell phones (229) from October 11-15, 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent, 5.1 percent for the likely voters sample. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the Reason-Rupe poll. 

Proposition 32 and Public Sector Worker Reforms

The poll finds 45 percent of likely voters support Proposition 32, while 48 percent oppose it. Prop. 32would prevent unions and corporations from using automatic paycheck deductions for political purposes.  

While voters may reject telling unions how they can collect or spend their money, they are eager for elected officials to rein in public sector worker costs. In fact, 77 percent say they favor requiring government workers to pay more for their own health care and retirement benefits; 20 percent oppose doing so. 

Likewise, 69 percent say future government workers—those who haven't been promised defined-pensions—should be offered 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of the guaranteed pensions currently provided.

Nearly three quarters, 74 percent, of Californians say taxpayers should get to vote on retirement and benefit increases before they are given to government workers. Just 22 percent say taxpayers should not get to approve public sector benefit increases. The public wants its voice to be heard on the issue because 53 percent feel public sector unions have too much power over elected officials at the negotiating table and 42 percent say government unions hurt the state economy. Seventeen percent say public sector unions help the economy.

One specific example: 53 percent of Californians say the average state prison guard, who costs taxpayers over $100,000 a year in salary, overtime and benefits, is overpaid. Thirty-eight percent say guards are paid about the right amount and 6 percent say they are underpaid. 

Proposition 38, Higher Education Funding and Bias

Molly Munger's Proposition 38, which would raise taxes to increase funding for schools, is supported by 42 percent of likely voters and opposed by 52 percent.

As California's universities warn of even more tuition and fee increases if tax increases aren't approved, the Reason-Rupe poll identifies several higher education reforms that enjoy vast public support.  Voters, by a 71-22 margin, favor requiring full-time faculty to teach one additional class each school year. Three out of four likely voters say state colleges and universities should offer full course offerings during the summer. Sixty-nine percent support consolidating academic programs and 64 percent favor transitioning low enrollment classes into online courses.  And 51 percent of voters believe universities could cut the number of administrators without harming the quality of education.

When asked if university professors offer material in a balanced or biased way, 53 percent say the presentation is biased and 24 percent say it is balanced. When asked to describe the bias, 68 percent believe it is a liberal bias, 8 percent feel it is a conservative bias and 20 percent say it is some other type of bias.

Municipal Bankruptcies and Reducing the Costs of Government

With multiple municipal governments filing for bankruptcy in California recently, voters were asked to identify changes they'd support their own local governments making.   Just 28 percent of voters support reductions to social services, police and fire departments, while 69 oppose such cuts. Conversely, 63 percent favor selling government-owned assets like golf courses, parking lots and convention centers.  Nearly the same amount, 60 percent, support outsourcing services such as trash collection, park management and road maintenance to the private sector. And 71 percent say they oppose raising local taxes in their area, while 25 percent support tax increases. 

Presidential and Senate Race

President Barack Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney 53 percent to 38 percent among likely voters. The Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson gets 2 percent of support and 1 percent favors the Green Party's Jill Stein.

Fifty-five percent of Californians approve of the job President Obama is doing and 40 percent disapprove. Similarly, 59 percent of likely voters view the president favorably, with 38 percent viewing him unfavorably. In contrast, 49 percent of voters view Romney unfavorably and 42 percent view him favorably.

In the U.S. Senate race, Sen. Dianne Feinstein leads Republican Elizabeth Emken 60 percent to 34 percent.

This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

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  1. "Prop. 32 would prevent unions and corporations from using automatic paycheck deductions for political purposes."

    I'm downright torn on this one. This is one of those where I go, yeah, I think I like the outcome of that, I support meddling in that, then how can I complain about the government meddling in my life?

    The ballot initiatives are often like that. It's like a gay marriage initiative, when I go, "Where's the box to check that says we have no business voting on other people's rights?".

    1. Fuck the unions.

      They've declared war on CA citizens and it's time to fight back instead of sitting on the fence wringing your hands.

      1. Ends don't justify the means

    2. Huh? Why should my wife be forced by the government to join a union to work as a nurse in the state? Why should she be forced by the government to give money to said union to lobby for things that she despises?

      Voting to remove government meddling and restore people's rights is a good thing.

      I have no faith that it will pass, though.

      1. I'm not familiar with the nursing/union requirements here (though I should be, my aunt and a cousin are nurses), but generally speaking, I think unions and corporations should have the right to deduct money from their employee's paychecks, as long as membership/employment are voluntary

        1. Membership is most definitely not voluntary. Prop 32 doesn't even make it voluntary. It makes contributing to the union's political activities voluntary. As small step in the right direction, but not nearly far enough.

    3. Coercion is not a right.

    4. Also, Prop 32 bans unions and corporations from contributing to state and local campaigns

    5. Don't forget that Milton Friedman himself did believe that the government would have to intervene to stop unfair and monopolistic practices. And I certainly would say that unions behave in unfair and monopolistic ways.

    6. companies should NOT have to deduct these types of items. set it up with your bank if you want a deduction, they will be happy to do it.

      plus if you set it up, you can always stop it if they don't do what you want.

      quit being a union lamb, think for yourself.

    7. I'm with you Ken. I agree with the general sentiment, but this is clearly an attempt to shift the political balance of power by crippling one of the major players (unions) and allowing the others (corporations) to continue business as usual.

      It's quite analogous to gay marriage. If the state is going to facilitate certain relationships (whether marriage or incorporation), then it must do so in a way that does not favor one group over another. Unions and corporations are parallel in this respect.

      Maybe if it were limited to public unions, I could support it.

  2. California Voters Moving Towards Wisconsin-Like Government Reforms

    Like the glaciers moved south.

    1. Yes, winter is coming for all these bloated government programs and bureaucracies.

  3. I'll believe it on November 7. Never has the California proposition system ever done
    anything but disgust and disappoint me (ok, with one or two exceptions).

    1. Yup. I just filled out my absentee ballot. Only 2 "Yes" votes, Prop 32 and Prop 34 (repealing the death penalty). Both likely to lose, while other idiocy will pass.

  4. I think 32 will pass and 30 will fail. The polls just don't reflect the voters. So many people are just "detached" from the political process due to language, customs, drugs, or lack of understanding the concept.

    With cell phones gaining and land lines falling, how do you know your demographic?

    So you have "the motivated" and the "Huh?". And "the motivated" feel they are paying too much already, and truly believe that having public unions pick our candidates has led to California's malaise.

    If either 32 falls or 30 passes, it will be miracle. Or fraud. After all, the public sector counts the votes. I really do not think the motivation for most of California's voters goes beyond mumbling into a cell phone the answer the pollster wants to hear.

    1. Brilliant logic: "we have no reliable information, therefore I'm certain of the situation"

  5. Can anyone provide specifics about the proposed higher education reform (the Survey results are not specific -- just say that the reforms have been proposed)?

    From the perspective of a researcher at UC, the reform ideas seem inane. California has a diverse set of state-funded higher education institutions, and reforms that might work for the Community College would not work for UC. UC does not provide plush benefits to its professors; it is competing with other research universities around the country, and it's recruitment will be affected if it places additional responsibilities on professors. Also, UC is a *research* university. Most professors (at least in the sciences) only get paid a 9-month salary -- their summer salary comes from outside grant support. If they are required to teach more (whether over the summer or during the semesters) it will interfere with their research activities, make it harder for them to get grants, and change the nature of the institution from a research institution (supported by outside grants) to a teaching institution (fully supported by stipends and CA taxpayers)

    1. A more reasonable reform would be to stop expanding the UC system, and instead funnel any additional revenues into the Cal State or Community College system (which are less costly per student). Maybe UC Merced could be converted into a Cal State school.

  6. Ok I love this:
    Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed say government regulations often do more harm than good. And an even higher number, 65 percent of likely voters, believe the laws and regulations passed by the state legislature make it more likely that businesses will move their jobs to other states. Merely 24 percent think the legislature's actions help create jobs in California.

    Yet these same people are for Obama! I'm missing something right? President Obama is for more government control. California liberals please wake up from your long dream.

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