Confronted with a larger-than-expected budget deficit, a majority of California voters continue to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed November ballot initiative that would temporarily raise the state sales tax and income tax on high earners in the state — but this support shows signs of slipping.
Approval for Brown’s ballot initiative fell 5 percentage points in the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll, conducted from May 17 to May 21. Fifty-nine percent of voters favor Brown’s budget proposal, including the ballot initiative, and 36 percent oppose it. In a March USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, 64 percent of voters supported Brown’s ballot initiative and 33 percent opposed it.
This margin narrows further when voters are presented with arguments for and against Brown’s proposal, along with information that California faces a budget deficit of $16 billion, much higher than the initial projection of $9 billion.
In the face of these new numbers, 51 percent of likely voters agreed with a statement that it is “more important than ever to support Gov. Brown’s proposal to temporarily increase the income tax on high earners. No one wants higher taxes, but we need to make these tough choices to protect public schools, higher education and public safety.”
In contrast, 41 percent of likely voters agreed with the statement, “the increased budget deficit shows clearly that state government does not know how to balance a budget or spend taxpayer dollars. It’s more important than ever to oppose Gov. Brown’s proposal to temporarily increase the state sales tax because the money will just be wasted again.”
“Gov. Brown and his advisers have argued that the prospect of difficult spending cuts would lead to increased support for additional revenues, but the ongoing news coverage of the state’s budget problems may be creating an obstacle for his ballot initiative as well,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the USC Unruh Institute of Politics. “Voters have indicated a willingness to pay more for public schools and public safety. But they are also getting skeptical about whether their elected representatives can be trusted to spend their money wisely.”
Forty-nine percent of California voters approve of the job being done by Brown, virtually unchanged from the results of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll in March. But Brown’s disapproval numbers have risen slightly in the past few months, from 35 percent in March to 39 percent in the latest poll.
The governor’s plan would seek to balance the budget deficit through a combination of revenue increases and cuts to health and welfare spending, as well as other state programs. Brown’s plan also proposes reducing the workweek for state employees by 5 percent — from 40 hours a week to 38 hours.
By a 2-to-1 margin, California voters support reducing the number of hours state employees work, except for public safety employees, in order to save an estimated $400 million. Sixty percent of voters favor reducing the public employee workweek and 30 percent oppose it.
Latino voters were much less likely than voters overall to support cutting the public employee workweek. Forty-four percent of Latino voters in California favored reducing the public employee workweek, and 45 percent opposed it.
Overall, when told this cut would mean state offices are open four days a week, support for reduced work hours for public employees declined: 54 percent of voters, including 44 percent of Latino voters, favored reducing the workweek if it would mean state offices closed one more day a week. Thirty-nine percent of voters overall, including 48 percent of Latinos, opposed it.
The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,002 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Schnur will be guest-tweeting from the Twitter account @uscelection2012 about the results of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and election news.
Follow all election news coverage at Election 2012, a resource for journalists and others interested in politics created by USC Media Relations.