Same-sex marriage is once again a major issue in California politics after the state Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision May 15 that affirmed the right of same-sex couples to wed — and the increased likelihood following that decision that an initiative will appear on the November ballot to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages or any other solemnification of same-sex partnerships.
Two new surveys, one from the Los Angeles Times and KTLA, the other from the Field Poll, highlight the intensity of the balance of opinion about same-sex marriage in California. The Times/KTLA poll, which came out on Friday, showed the proposed initiative garnering 54-35% support among registered voters. The article accompanying the poll said that despite the apparent majority backing the ballot measure, “the state is moving closer to accepting nontraditional marriages” and “because ballot measures on controversial topics often lose support during the course of a campaign, strategists typically want to start out well above the 50% support level.”
The Field Poll, released this morning, showed that for the first time since the organization began asking the question in 1977, a razor-thin majority of California registered voters approves the idea of allowing same-sex couples to marry, by a margin of 51 to 42%. However, reflecting the fact that this opinion balances on the head of a pin, the further demographic breakdowns of the poll reveal much sharper splits, with Republicans, Catholics and Protestants, voters over the age of 65, and Central Valley voters opposing same-sex marriage by wide margins.
The PPIC survey mentioned in the last post also asked Californians to assess the performance of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and of the state legislature. Californians are increasingly unhappy with the governor’s performance — 48% disapproving and 41% approving (a decline in 16 points in approval from December 2007). The legislature’s approval rating is much lower, at 26%.
Californians these days rank the economy and jobs as their major concerns, but education also scores high as a significant worry among residents, according to the results of a major Public Policy Institute of California survey released today.
53% of Californians view the quality of K-12 public schools as a major problem. 31% view it as somewhat of a problem. 59% say that the public school system needs major changes, but few trust the governor or the legislature to get anything done. In terms of geography, more people in the Inland Empire gave their public schools average or lower grades than any other region in the state, with 47% ranking the local school systems C or below. The Bay Area was close behind, with 46% ranking the public schools C or below.
When asked whether they would support raising taxes just to maintain current spending levels for public schools, residents were evenly divided, with 49% saying they would be willing and 48% saying they would not. Even more residents were opposed to raising the sales tax to accomplish this goal, with 63% opposed.
The PPIC report is full data in response to other questions that residents were asked about the state of education in California, including adequacy and efficiency of state funding, resource equity, teacher quality, curriculum goals, and perceptions of the state’s relative education rankings.
In a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, Governor Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings have slipped to 44%, which is down 6 points since January and 13 points since December. The governor’s lowest approval rating was 33%, which was in October 2005.
Approval of the legislature among Californians is down to 30%.
The state’s budget woes, which have been heavily featured in the news lately, are a source of particular concern among Californians, according to the PPIC poll. 68% say that the budget situation is a “big problem.” 56% say that they are “very concerned” about the effects of spending reductions in the governor’s latest budget proposal. 42% prefer a mix of budget cuts and tax increases to deal with the budget crisis. In general, Californians are extremely pessimistic about the way things are going nationally — 73% say that things are going in the wrong direction, the highest point in the 10-year history of the PPIC poll in which this question has been asked.
The poll also asks about Proposition 98, the eminent domain initiative on the June ballot that would restrict or eliminate rent control in jurisdictions in which it is now in effect. 41% of likely voters say that they would vote against Proposition 98. 37% say that they would vote for it. Proposition 99, a competing initiative that would supersede Proposition 98 if it got more votes on the June ballot, garners 53-27% support.
The latest Field Poll shows Senator Barack Obama pulling close to even with Senator Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination in California. Obama now trails Clinton by just two percentage points among likely voters (36-34%). This is a dramatic change since the last Field Poll was released on January 22. That poll showed Obama trailing Clinton by 12 percentage points.
Other recent polls released this weekend or late last week, including the CNN/Opinion Research national survey, and the American Research Group and Reuters/C-Span/Zogby tracking polls for California, show similar trends. Obama’s candidacy seems to be gaining momentum.
According to a recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center, the gap in party affiliation among Hispanics has widened drmamatically in the past 1 to 2 years. The gap in affiliation between Hispanics who identified themselves as Democrats and those who identified themselves as Republicans was only 21% in 2006. The gap is now 34%.
In 2004, 32% of Hispanic voters in California voted for George Bush. Bush lost the state by 10 percentage points. Hispanics constitute a strategic percentage of eligible voters in 4 out of 6 states where George Bush won in 2004 by 5 percentage points or fewer. (The 4 states are New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado.) In California, Hispanics constitute a project 16.8% of the share of the projected atate vote in 2008. In states like California, where the vote for president could be closely contested, the participation of Hispanic voters could mean the difference between one party winning or losing the election. That reality is even more apparent in states like the four mentioned above, because the 2004 election was far more closely contested in those states.
A new Field Poll shows Californians evenly divided on Proposition 93, the term limits initiative, and Propositions 94 through 97, the initiatives that would renew and expand the gaming compacts that four Indian tribes have with the state.
A month ago, 50% favored Proposition 93 and 32% opposed it. The latest poll shows an exact even split — 39% favoring, 39% opposing, 22% undecided. The numbers on the Indian gaming measures have not changed all that much. A month ago, the split was 39-33% supporting the measures; now the split is 42-37%, with 21% undecided.
As the Field Poll says, “With voter preferences so closely divided, the outcomes of each are very much in doubt.”
The poll breaks down the differences in support and opposition among various demographic, geographic, age, and other subgroups and is well worth taking a look at. Also, we have detailed information resources on the all of the February ballot measures.
Update (1/30/08): A Los Angeles Times/CNN/Politico poll shows very similar narrowness of difference in voter attitudes toward Proposition 93, with 50% supporting it and 46% opposing.
A new Field Poll shows New York Senator Hillary Clinton with a commanding 12-point lead over Illinois Senator Barack Obama in California in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, even after Obama’s convincing 8-point caucus victory in Iowa on January 3 and the ensuing flood of positive media coverage that ensued. (Obama has not won a caucus or primary since Iowa.) Former North Carolina Senator and 2004 vice-presidential nominee John Edwards is a distant third.
The breakdown is Clinton 39%, Obama 27%, and Edwards 10%. Clinton’s lead over Obama has narrowed significantly since mid-December, when her lead was one of 14 points, and since October, when her lead was a whopping 25 points. Edwards has never polled above 13% since the presidential preference question started being asked in March 2007.
Clinton Leads Obama by 12 Points in California [Field Poll]
Clinton’s lead over Obama is wider among Latinos, seniors, non-college graduates, and those with annual household incomes under $40,000. Obama has the advantage among African-Americans, college grads, and those with annual household incomes over $80,000. (This pattern holds in other caucus and primary states as well.) Clinton’s lead over Obama is down to 7 points if you consider only Bay Area registered Democrats.
Another year-end Field Poll shows that Californians are pessimistic about the state’s economy, mirroring results from a PPIC survey in December. 52% of registered voters say that the state is in bad economic shape. Interestingly, that figure is only 3 points higher than when the poll asked the same question in 2005, when 49% said the state was in bad economic shape, and the number is down significantly from 2003, when 75% said the state was in bad economic shape. The proportion of voters who think that the state’s economic condition will get better over the next year is 25%; 35% say it will stay the same, 35% say it will get worse. The percent who say that things are going to get worse is the highest since 2001 (when 40% said they thought things would get worse), which roughly coincides with the tail end of the state’s last recession. Although voters are pessimistic about the state’s economic condition, 49% say that they expect no change in their own economic circumstances over the next year, 32% say they believe that they will be better off; 14% think that they will be worse off.
Another Field Poll finds that California registered voters continue to have a “dismal appraisal of Congress’ current performance,” with 66% expressing disapproval and only 20% expressing approval. Approval was somewhat higher in March 2007, a few months after the 110th Congress was voted into office and its session began, with 64% disapproval and 35% approval. Otherwise, the disapproval level is roughly at the same number that it has been for the past two years, although the approval level ties August 2007 (20%) for the lowest number in the past 16 years.
Nancy Pelosi’s disapproval rating is at 38%, which is slightly lower than the 40% recorded in October but statistically insignificant. 35% of registered voters approve of the Speaker’s performance. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s approval rating is at 50%, which is high compared with other high-visibility California Democratic Congressional figures but lower than ratings she had at earlier points in 2007. Senator Barbara Boxer’s rating is at 45%. This is down 9 points from the 54% that was recorded in March 2007, but is more in line with Boxer’s typical approval rating, which has hovered between 41 and 50% for most of her tenure in the Senate.