Young voters and minority voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 30 at the polls, helping to lift Gov. Jerry Brown’s ballot initiative to a decisive win, according to the results of the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.
The measure will increase the state sales tax by a quarter cent and personal income tax on people earning more than $250,000 a year to fund public education, public safety and other state government programs.
Nearly two-thirds of young voters ages 18 to 29 said they voted for Proposition 30, compared to 35 percent of voters in that age group who said they voted against the initiative.
Latinos largely supported the initiative, with 58 percent saying they voted to support it and 42 percent saying they voted against it. Black voters backed the measure 68-32, and Asian voters also heavily favored the proposition. Overall, 54 percent of Californians voted to pass Proposition 30, and 46 percent voted against the initiative.
“Give Jerry Brown credit,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “The governor reached out aggressively to young voters and minority voters and gained their support in huge numbers.
“Ballot measures rarely gain support in the closing days and weeks of a campaign, but Brown’s targeting of college campuses not only helped his support among young people but it reminded other traditional Democratic constituencies of the importance of school funding,” Schnur added.
Parents were split 50-50 on their support of Proposition 30. The initiative narrowly lost among those earning incomes of $100,000 or more per year, with 49 percent voting in favor of it and 51 percent who said they voted against it.
“There’s no indication there was a major upper class revolt against this plan,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, which conducted the poll with Republican polling firm American Viewpoint on behalf of USC and the Los Angeles Times. “I think people have a clear understanding that public schools are worth the investment.”
Supporters of Proposition 30 were mostly in agreement on their main reasons for supporting the initiative. More than two-thirds of voters (77 percent) said one of their top two reasons for supporting Proposition 30 was that it “protects California’s schools from devastating spending cuts.” Forty-one percent of voters said the proposition “temporarily raises income taxes on the highest earners in a balanced way that makes sure everyone pays their fair share.”
Among those opposing Proposition 30, two different arguments seemed to hold roughly equal weight. Forty-nine percent said the initiative was a “gimmick” that would not guarantee new money for schools, and 42 percent said it would be a “$6 billion tax increase on Californians who already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation.”
Brown approval rating improves; Californians less pessimistic about future
The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll also showed that Brown’s approval rating has increased, with 49 percent of voters saying they approve of the job being down by the governor, compared to 36 percent who said they disapprove. Last month, 45 percent of voters said they approved of Brown and 40 percent said they disapproved.
In addition, Californians are also becoming less pessimistic about the direction the state is headed. While the majority of voters — 53 percent — still said California is “pretty seriously off on the wrong track,” 38 percent said things are going in the right direction.
When the question was last asked in August 2011, 17 percent of voters thought the state was headed in the right direction and 71 percent said California was on the wrong track.
Latino voters also expressed more optimism about California’s future than did white voters. Forty-seven percent of Latinos said they thought the state was on the right track, compared to 43 percent who thought the opposite.
Among white voters, 32 percent said California was headed in the right direction and 60 percent said the state was on the wrong track.
When asked about efforts to balance California’s budget, 54 percent of voters said Brown was moving in the right direction, compared to 39 percent who said Brown had made no progress during his two years in office.
Young voters ages 18 to 29 were most optimistic about Brown’s budget efforts, with 61 percent of voters saying Brown was on the right track with the budget, compared to 33 percent who disagreed.
“The post-election halo of optimism is good for Democrats now, but if they don’t fix the big economic picture, you’ll likely see optimism slip,” said Dave Kanevsky, research director of Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. “Now, Democrats have to govern, and Californians have really high expectations.”
The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted from Nov. 7 to Nov. 12. The full sample of 1,520 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
Follow all election news coverage at Election 2012, a resource for journalists and others interested in politics created by USC Media Relations.