Field Poll: High-speed rail could derail governor’s tax plan
July 5, 2012
• Voters would reject higher taxes if rail plan is funded
• Electorate evenly divided on two other tax measures
One of Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet projects could end up scuttling another, according to the results of the latest polling of Californians by the Field Poll.
California voters will be asked to consider three different tax increase proposals in the November elections. Two of the proposals, one sponsored by Gov. Jerry Brown and the other by attorney Molly Munger, would raise personal income taxes, while a third led by hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer, would increase taxes on multi-state businesses operating in California.
The just completed Field Poll finds voters supporting the Brown initiative 54 percent to 38 percent, but evenly divided on the other two tax proposals.
On the Munger initiative it is 46 percent Yes and 46 percent No, while the Steyer proposal receives 44 percent Yes and 43 percent No votes.
However, the survey also finds that the Brown tax plan would be adversely affected if the legislature proceeds with funding the state's controversial high-speed rail project. One in three likely voters, including one in five voters who currently support the governor's initiative, say they'd be less inclined to vote Yes on his plan if the legislature begins funding the rail project.
The Legislature is expected to vote Friday on releasing voter-approved bond money to start building the $68 billion rail system. If that happens, construction would start on the system in the Central Valley.
The high-speed rail plan has been revised a number of times. In its latest iteration, instead of laying all new track, some existing commuter track will be upgraded, allowing the project to finish several years earlier. Yet, total costs of the project have increased by about $35 billion from what was originally proposed.
In its current survey the Field Poll finds voter views of the project have soured considerably since its passage. At present, 56 percent of likely voters say they would oppose the rail project if it were up for another public vote, while just 39 percent are supportive.
The unpopularity of the multi-billion dollar project appears to be negatively affecting chances of voters endorsing the Governor’s tax increase proposal should the legislature authorize funds to the project. Nearly one in three likely voters, including one in five voters who currently support the Governor’s initiative, say they’d be less inclined to vote Yes if the legislature begins funding the rail project.
The Governor's tax proposal is currently supported by a 16-point plurality (54 percent to 38 percent). This is similar to a May Field Poll when it was endorsed 52 percent to 35 percent.
Support for the Munger tax initiative is evenly split, with 46 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Last May voters were also divided, with 42 percent on the Yes side and 43 percent voting No.
Voters are closely divided on the Steyer business income tax initiative. In The Field Poll's first assessment of voter reaction to the measure, 44 percent of likely voters are inclined to support it, while
43 percent are opposed.
The latest Field Poll survey was completed June 21-July 2 among 997 registered voters in California, including 848 voters considered likely to vote in the November 2012 election. In order to cover a broad range of issues and still minimize voter fatigue, the overall likely voter sample was divided into two random subsamples of 412 and 436 likely voters each on some questions.
Interviewing was conducted by telephone in English and Spanish using live interviewers working from Field Research Corporation’s central location telephone interviewing facilities. Up to six attempts were made to reach, screen and interview each randomly selected voter on different days and times of day during the interviewing period.
Interviewing was completed on either a voter’s landline phone or a cell phone depending on the source of the telephone listing from the voter file. In this survey 745 interviews were derived from landline sample listings and 252 from cell phone listings. After the completion of interviewing, the overall registered voter sample was weighted to Field Poll estimates of the characteristics of the registered voter population in California.
Sampling error estimates applicable to the results of any probability-based survey depend on sample size as well as the percentage distribution being examined. The maximum sampling error for results based on the overall likely voter sample is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, while findings based on each random subsample have a maximum sampling error of +/- 4.9 percentage points. The maximum sampling error is based on results in the middle of the sampling distribution (i.e., percentages at or near 50 percent). Percentages at either end of the distribution (those closer to 10 percent or 90 percent) have a smaller margin of error. There are other potential sources of error in surveys besides sampling error. However, the overall design and execution of the survey sought to minimize these other errors.