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Public Policy Poll puts Californians to the test

by Ryan Jaroncyk, published

The Public Policy Institute of California released an exhaustive poll revealing citizens' preferences on a slew of issues. Overall, at the state level, Californians greatly distrust their leadership, possess a strong desire for change, and are cautious concerning the type of reform they're willing to endorse.  At the federal level, Californians are much more positive in their outlook.  Here's a statistical breakdown of the various categories: 

Open Primary & Part-Time State Legislature-

    • 70% believe a top-two open primary is a good idea; 23% a bad idea
    • 44% say a shift to a part-time legislature would be a bad idea; 23% a good idea; 27% no difference

State Government, the People, and Tax Dollars-

  • 73% believe the govt. is run mainly by a few, big, special interests
    • 20% believe the govt. is run for the benefit of all people
    • 62% believe the govt. wastes their tax money

Initiative Process-

    • 56% claim the initiative process is superior to decisions made by the govt.; 28% say it's worse
    • 81% favor public disclosure for funding related to signature gathering and campaigns; 14% oppose
    • 80% favor having a period of time in which the initiative sponsor and the legislature could meet to see if a compromise is possible before the initiative is placed on the ballot

State & Local Budgets- 

    • 96% view the budget situation as a problem
    • 60% are very concerned about the effect of budget cuts on local govt. services
    • 80% believe the budget process is in need of major changes
    • 65% believe it would be a good idea to strictly limit spending increases each year; 28% a bad idea
    • 53% believe it would be a good idea to lower the threshold needed to pass the budget to 55%, instead of 67% of the legislature; 38% a bad idea
    • 50% believe it would be a good idea to lower the threshold needed for special, local taxes to 55% of voters, instead of 67% of voters; 42% a bad idea

State Constitution-

    • 33% believe major changes to the Constitution are needed
    • 36% believe minor changes are needed to the Constitution
    • 24% believe the Constitution is fine as is

Property Taxes & Term Limits-

    • 55% view Proposition 13, which limits property taxes on commercial and residential buildings as mostly a good thing; 30% mostly a bad thing
    • 58% say it would be a good idea to tax commercial property according to market value
    • 59% view term limits as a good thing, 15% a bad thing, 23% makes no difference
    • 65% say it would be a good idea to modify term limits from 14 to 12 years, but allowing the years of service to derive from a combination of both houses or just one chamber

Future of California-

    • 67% say the state can expect bad financial times over the next 12 months; 26% good times
    • 49% are very or somewhat concerned that they or someone in their family will lose their job in the next year
    • 72% believe the state is headed in the wrong direction


    • 58% view immigrants as beneficial to the state due to their hard work and job skills; 35% say they're a burden to the economy

State Government Approval Ratings-

    • Governor Schwarzenegger's approval rating is 30%; disapproval rating is 61%
    • The legislature's approval rating stands at 21%

Federal Government Approval Ratings-

    • 63% approval of President Obama's performance; 32% disapprove
    • 54% approve of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
    • 53% approve of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
    • 49% approve of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
    • 39% approve of the U.S. Congress, but 56% approve of how their own U.S. House members are performing in Congress

Federal Spending & Health Care Reform-

    • 50% believe the federal government's actions will help the economy; 43% do not
    • 56% oppose further increases in federal spending to stimulate the economy; 38% support more spending
    • 51% support health care reform as proposed by Congress and President Obama; 38% oppose
    • 62% favor a public plan to compete with private insurers; 33% oppose


    • 69% are confident that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies can prevent another terrorist attack

This is the 101st PPIC Statewide Survey in a series that has generated a database of over 216,000 Californians.  Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,006 California adult residents interviewed from August 26-September 2, 2009, on land lines and cell phones, in English or Spanish.  The sampling error for all adults is +/- 2%.

Based on the comprehensive findings above, a few patterns emerge.  On the state front, Californians are largely disappointed in their own government and concerned about the state's economic future.  To correct these shortcomings, they seek qualified reform and greater transparency in certain political areas. On the federal front, Californians are much more positive in their views of the President, Congress, a public option for health care, and national security.  And on both the state and federal levels, a majority of Californians advocates limits being placed on further spending increases.


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