An additional problem with this interpretation is that of the propositions, only Proposition 1A impacted taxes and even that only two years down the road and only to continue already implemented tax increases for an additional two years.
The Binder survey is not a traditional exit poll, instead it polled 1,008 California voters from May 16 to May 20, 2009. 603 of those polled voted, an additional 405 did not. The margin for error of this survey is 3.1%.
The electorate that voted in this special election did not look like the November 2008 electorate. The voters in this election were more likely to be Republicans and less likely to be Independents. Democratic voters came out in roughly their normal proportion.
“Of those that voted in this election, 43% were Democrats, 42% were Republicans and 15% were Independents or minor party voters. This past November, the electorate consisted of 46% Democrats, 32% Republicans and 22% Independents or minor party voters.
In November 2010, the electorate will be a group that is more supportive of the revenue options tested in the survey, and more strongly opposed to only using cuts to balance the state budget. While only 36% of voters that turned out for the May 19th election supported using entirely budget cuts to balance the budget, even fewer – only 24% — of non-voters felt the same way.”
One thing that the leaders and media appear to get right in their analysis is that the voters sent a message to the leadership of Sacramento to fix the problems themselves rather than rely on the voters to do it.
“Voters simply do not trust the leadership in Sacramento, and recognize that the failed special election was just another example of the inability to bring real solutions to voters.”
A full 74% said that the special election is simply another failure of the Governor and Legislature to do the job that they were elected to do.
“They need to stop going to the voters with political gimmicks and temporary fixes and instead make the hard decisions to really fix the budget.”
Only 20 percent believe that this was a sincere effort by both parties to gain approval of a compromise to fix the budget mess.
However, part of the failure of leadership is a structural problem in Sacramento that makes it difficult to pass budgets when one side is flat out refusing to compromise. And while voters can say that they are frustrated at the leadership void in California and give Sacramento leaders of both parties lower ratings that their leaders in Washington, the question of political reform was not approached by Binder. There is no question that examines the appetite to make structural changes, of which the two-thirds rule would be one of perhaps many options.
There is a movement to do a constitutional convention for example to re-write California’s constitution. There are questions about term limits that need to be asked. Questions about campaign reform. Questions about redistricting. None of these questions were asked by Binder and so we don’t get a full picture of what the people want in terms of change.
We do get a sense overall what they think of the legislature however, and some of these reform components can be inferred here. The voters very clearly feel that the legislature is captured by special interests, cannot make the difficult decision, they are political and fight too much. On the other hand, they are out of touch with the average voter, do not provide leadership or compromise, they are not accountable and not open and transparent.
What we do get a pretty good sense of is that this is not simply a tax revolt or a mandate to go on a cutting spree and cut vital programs.
Binder argues that the voters far from supporting a cuts-only solution, instead markedly support a valance approach.
“Voters want the Governor and legislature to stand up for solutions based on shared responsibility, instead of targeting average Californians. Voters feel strongly that special interests should be asked to do their part to solve the state’s budget problems, and back it up by supporting a variety of proposals that would do just that. Over two-thirds of voters felt the special election was an example of the Governor and the legislature balancing the budget on the backs of average Californians instead of asking their special interest contributors to do their share to help out. Only 19% agreed that all Californians are being asked to share the pain equally as the state deals with this budget crisis.
The lesson coming away from this election is that Californians want real solutions that protect the services the state provides, and that Californians are willing to explore revenue options to pay for the services they want. Voters are not against all tax increases, they did not oppose this measure because of taxes, and instead are looking for a balanced approach that shares the burden and moves the state forward.
Further, only 29% of voters say the state government should rely on entirely on spending cuts, with no tax increases. All other voters believe in some level of shared responsibility, balancing both spending cuts and tax increases to address the state budget shortfall. Importantly, even among ‘No’ voters, less than half (46%) say the government should rely entirely on spending cuts with no tax increases.”
Within these numbers are some rather staggering results. When asked which approach the governor and legislators ought to take only 29% say that the government should rely entirely on spending cuts with no tax increases. A full 65% want some sort of shared responsibility. Perhaps more surprising is “even among ‘No’ voters, fewer than half (46%) say the government should rely entirely on spending cuts.”
The survey finds that voters show a support for a variety of new tax options. Even among “No” voters, a majority supports taxes such as sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol, an oil extraction tax, closing loopholes for corporations to avoid reassessment of the value of new property, increasing the top bracket of state income tax, and prohibiting corporations from using tax credits to offset more than fifty percent of the taxes they owe.
Finally the polling shows the electorate opposed to massive new cuts for public schools, colleges, health care and homecare services–again even among those who voted against Proposition 1a.
While these results are stark and instructive, we should take caution before we draw too broad a conclusions from these. From his credentials, Binder appears to be a reputable pollster with a decent track record as statistical analyst who has done many voter surveys over the years. However, some of the results contradict with a recent Field Poll.
In terms of the breakdown of the electorate, the nearly 50-50 split of his survey or at least those 600 who would vote indicates a relatively robust result. However, the questions and the phrasing of those questions would be important and they were not provided.
Nevertheless, we know that many of the liberal interest groups and citizen groups were opposing these propositions, and to assume the electorate was simply revolting at taxes and calling for cuts would be premature at best and misguided at worst. If there is a common thread it is a message to Sacramento to work together and make real budget changes–but given the structure of government, can they? And if they cannot, what are the voters willing to do about it?
—David M. Greenwald reporting