Repealing the gas tax increase next year may bring out the Republicans

December 1, 2017 4:40am
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•  Californians see single-payer health insurance and gas tax as very important issues

•  “Ballot initiatives could affect partisan turnout in statewide and legislative races”

Californians will vote on a state affordable housing bond in November of next year. Many other measures -- including one or more initiaves to repeal Gov. Edmund Gerald Brown’s 12-cents per gallon gas tax hike -- may also qualify for the ballot.

A new survey by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California may foretell how four of those issues do, if they make the ballot.

• Single-payer health insurance

Most likely voters (59 percent) say the issue of single-payer health insurance is very important to them. Majorities across parties concur.

• Repealing the recently enacted gas tax

A majority (54 percent) say repeal is very important to them. Republican likely voters (85 percent) are far more likely than independent (46 percent) or Democratic (36 percent) likely voters to express this view.

• State bond for affordable housing

About half of likely voters (48 percent) say a state bond for affordable housing is very important to them. Democratic likely voters (58 percent) are more likely than independent (42 percent) and Republican (37 percent) likely voters to say so.

• Expanding the size of the legislature

Just 18 percent of likely voters consider expanding the size of the legislature to be very important.

“Ballot initiatives could affect partisan turnout in statewide and legislative races in the November 2018 election,” says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president. ”Most Republicans and relatively few Democrats say that the issue of repealing the gas tax is very important to them.”

Here are other issues unearthed by the PPIC polling:

A Solid Majority Likes the Top-Two Primary

Five years after it was first used in California, the top-two primary system gets positive reviews from likely voters, with 60 percent saying it has been mostly a good thing.

Under the system, voters cast primary ballots for a candidate of any party, and the two top vote getters — regardless of party — advance to the general election.

The PPIC survey asked about another new process that will be phased in beginning in 2018: Registered voters in participating counties will automatically be sent a ballot that can be returned by mail, taken to a drop-off location, or cast in person at any vote center in a county. A strong majority of likely voters (74 percent) see this change as mostly a good thing.

More Optimism about the State than about the Nation

About half of Californians (53 percent all adults, 49 percent likely voters) say that things in the state are generally going in the right direction. Far fewer (29 percent adults, 27 percent likely voters) say that things in the U.S. are going in the right direction.

These views are reflected in Californians’ evaluation of their elected leaders at the state and national levels. Slim majorities approve of the way Mr. Brown is handling his job (53 percent adults, 53 percent likely voters), and nearly half approve of the state Legislature (49 percent adults, 46 percent likely voters).

But far fewer Californians approve of the way President Donald Trump (28 percent adults, 34 percent likely voters) and Congress (22 percent adults, 15 percent likely voters) are handling their jobs. While 75 percent of Republicans approve of the Republican president, just 21 percent approve of the Republican-led Congress.

Congressional Tax Proposals Unpopular with Californians

Majorities of Californians (58 percent adults, 62 percent likely voters) oppose congressional Republicans’ tax reform proposals, which were being debated and voted on in the House of Representatives as the PPIC survey was taken. Most Republicans (58 percent) favor the proposals, while majorities of Democrats (84 percent) and independents (59 percent) are opposed.

Asked about the impact of the tax reform proposals on them and their families, 39 percent of adults and 41 percent of likely voters say they expect to be worse off. About a third (35 percent adults, 33 percent likely voters) expect to be about the same. Fewer (16 percent adults, 20 percent likely voters) expect to be better off.

Would lowering taxes for large businesses and corporations help the economy? Only about a third (29 percent adults, 35 percent likely voters) say yes. They are more likely to say it would hurt the economy (44 percent adults, 41 percent likely voters). Fewer (22 percent adults, 20 percent likely voters) say it would make no difference.

“Most Californians oppose the tax reform proposals from the Republicans in Congress,” Mr. Baldassare says. “Few believe the proposals would leave them better off personally or benefit the economy.”

Just 35 percent of adults and 27 percent of likely voters favor the elimination of deductions for state and local income taxes and sales taxes. Fewer than half of Californians across parties, regions, and demographic groups favor this proposal. However, nearly half of Californians (49 percent adults, 45 percent likely voters) favor limiting the home mortgage interest deduction to the first $500,000 of debt.

Strong Support for Letting Undocumented Immigrants Stay

An overwhelming majority of Californians (86 percent) say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants to stay in the US legally if certain requirements are met. Strong majorities across parties express this view. Nearly half of Californians say they worry a lot (28 percent) or some (20 percent) that someone they know could be deported. Notably, 57 percent of Hispanics and 48 percent of residents born outside the U.S. say they worry a lot.

Consensus among Partisans: A Third Major Party Needed

A year after the contentious national election, about half of Californians (48 percent) have a favorable impression of the Democratic Party and a quarter (26 percent) view the Republican Party favorably. A large majority of Democrats (72 percent) have a favorable view of their party while a smaller majority of Republicans (59 percent) have a favorable impression of theirs.

Majorities of independents have an unfavorable view of both the Democratic Party (53 percent) and the Republican Party (68 percent). And most Californians (60 percent adults, 64 percent likely voters) say that both parties do such a poor job that a third major party is needed.

About the survey

This PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from the James Irvine Foundation, the California Endowment, and the PPIC Donor Circle. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,704 California adult residents, including 1,108 interviewed on cell phones and 596 interviewed on landline telephones. Interviews took place from November 10–19, 2017. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.

The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.4 percent for all adults, ±3.9 percent for the 1,391 registered voters, and ±4.3 percent for the 1,070 likely voters.

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