Back in February the Vanguard reported about a poll conducted within the city of Davis about PG&E and other related issues. The results of this poll, which was questioned and scrutinized at the time, purportedly show strong support for PG&E and opposition to the city taking over the utility.
A press release from IBEW found: “A plurality of voters – 47% – said they would probably or definitely vote no on a ballot measure to create a new utility, with only 34% saying they would probably or definitely vote yes. Just over half of voters said they are not confident in the city of Davis’s ability to manage an electric utility.”
“Davis voters see through the false promises,” said Hunter Stern, Business Representative for IBEW 1245, which commissioned the poll. “Politicians promise green power at no greater cost. But voters understand that’s just empty rhetoric.”
The poll was taken in late February by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, a nationally respected firm, and was comprised of 400 telephone interviews with voters in the city of Davis.
“Davis deserves safe, reliable power that is truly green,” Mr. Stern said. “This plan is not it, and voters know it.”
The key findings in the poll were related in a polling memo which argues, “Voters are not confident that the City of Davis could do a better job, and perceive PG&E as both the better service and also more likely to achieve clean energy goals. When asked directly, a plurality of voters would oppose a City of Davis takeover of the electric utility, and anticipate that such a takeover would have a negative impact on the City budget, electricity rates, and service reliability.”
Key findings include: “A huge majority of voters are satisfied with the quality of service they receive from PG&E. Survey respondents were asked how satisfied they were with PG&E’s services as a gas and electric utility provider. Nine out of ten of voters (90%) say they are satisfied with the service they receive from the utility, with close to half (44%) saying they are ‘very’ satisfied.”
Second, they find, “PG&E’s reliability as a service provider stands out to almost all Davis voters. Respondents were asked to rate how satisfied they were with a series of specific services provided by PG&E.”
The memo continues, “A majority of voters are satisfied with all the specific services tested. Davis voters are particularly satisfied with PG&E’s reliability: 96 percent say they are satisfied, including close to two-thirds (65%) who say they are ‘very’ satisfied.”
Third, they find, “In this context, a plurality of voters oppose a proposal for the City of Davis to take over electric utility service from PG&E. Respondents were read a brief description of a proposal to have the City government, rather than PG&E, run local electric utility services in Davis. After hearing this description, a plurality (47%) says they would vote ‘no’ on such a measure, with the largest group (22%) saying that they would ‘definitely’ vote no. Just over one-third (34%) favor the idea.”
The question presented to voters: “In a future election, Davis voters may be presented with a ballot measure that would have City government, instead of PG&E, run local electric utility service in Davis. It would direct City government to purchase or replace PG&E’s distribution network of poles, wires, transformers, and meters, and then hire employees or outsource necessary activities like tree cutting, billing and call centers. Davis would then assume responsibility for its own energy supply mix.”
The results of that question are 34% yes, 47% percent no, and 19% either did not know or did not answer.
The memo reports, “Support for the idea varies only slightly by demographic group. Pluralities oppose the idea in most demographic and attitudinal sub-groups.”
The memo further argues, “A majority of voters lacks confidence in the City of Davis’ ability to manage an electric utility.” A majority of voters, 52%, “describe themselves as ‘not confident’ in the City’s ability to run and manage an electric utility if it takes over that responsibility from PG&E.”
Furthermore, “A majority of voters say that PG&E would do a better job providing electricity than the City of Davis.” They write, “56 percent of voters say that PG&E would do a better job than the City of Davis providing electric utility services – twice as many as believe that the City would do a better job.”
On the issue of clean energy, “Most voters also say that PG&E would be better prepared than the City of Davis to meet California clean energy standards. Respondents were informed of California’s requirement that utilities generate 33 percent of their electricity from clean, renewable sources, and asked whether the City of Davis or PG&E would do a better job fulfilling that requirement.” A majority of 50 to 35 percent say “that PG&E would do a better job providing clean energy than would the City of Davis.”
Finally, “Should the City take over the utility, voters anticipate a negative impact on the City budget, electricity rates, and service reliability?” The pollsters report that “Respondents were read a list of aspects of life in Davis, and were asked whether they thought the City’s assuming responsibility for the electric utility would have a positive or negative impact on each one”
Here they find, “Pluralities of voters feel that such a change would have a negative impact on the City’s budget, what they pay for electricity, and the reliability of electricity service. At the same time, most voters feel that the change would have a positive impact on job opportunities and clean energy consumption in Davis.”
The pollsters commissioned by IBEW, who works closely with PG&E, conclude, “Taken together, these survey results indicate that there is little desire among Davis voters to see the City take over electric service in the City. Voters are highly satisfied with the service they currently receive from PG&E, and see little reason to support a change.”
In the meantime, last night the council mapped out a strategy to move forward in pursuit of a POU. There is little doubt that, while the poll here may be strongly associated with PG&E, the expressed concerns in the community may well mirror these results. The city will have to work to offset this trepidation on the part of the voters if they wish to continue to move forward.
—David M. Greenwald reporting