FINDINGS OF THE CALIFORNIA SENATE BASELINE SURVEY

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1 FINDINGS OF THE CALIFORNIA SENATE BASELINE SURVEY Jerald G. Schutte Professor, Department of Sociology Director, Center for Survey Research California State University, Northridge Faculty Fellows Program Center for California Studies California State University August, 1995

2 FINDINGS OF THE CALIFORNIA SENATE BASELINE SURVEY Overview Pursuant to the request of the Faculty Fellows Program of the California State University, and in accordance with the approved proposal submitted June 19, 1995, interviews of active California registered voters were completed in July, Data from ninety five questions covering attitudes toward political, economic and social issues, potential voting behavior, and respondent characteristics were compiled via telephone interviews from a sample of 800 respondents. Marginal frequency tabulations are reported herein for all variables. In addition, crosstabular information is analyzed and presented controlling for six key demographic variables (age, gender, ethnicity, income, education and political affiliation) for each issue. Sample and Methodology The sample was drawn from the population of California's 14 million registered voters. The selection criterion imposed required the registrant to have either voted in the past 24 months, or to be a first time registrant. Thus, a sub-population of approximately nine million active voters constituted the working population. A systematic random sampling frame was imposed to achieve 800 clusters proportionally representing the working population. One completed interview for each cluster generated a sample of 800. A random sampling of this size, at the five percent significance level, yields a 3-4% margin of error. Although no demographic questions are asked of citizens registering to vote, an empirical referent can be established by looking at trends in political polling across time. Such a compilation is regularly reported by the Field Institute in its Political Demography report. The last such report is for 1992 (Appendix II). As can be seen by the comparison percentages in our sample, we have matched the field data for gender and for political affiliation in the population. It would appear, however, that our age is slightly skewed toward the elderly (30% vs 19% for Field's); ethnicity toward whites (84% vs 72% for Field's); income toward the upper bracket (27% vs 23% for Field's); and education toward college graduates (26% vs 18% for Field). However, it could be argued that since the Field report concerns registered voters in general and our working population is active registered voters, we would expect to see more older, upper income, white, college graduates in our pool. Ninety five questions ranging from feelings of satisfaction about politics, potential voting behavior for bond and other ballot measures, feelings of importance about social and economic issues, perceptions of job performance for various political figures, and various informational and demographic questions about the respondents were asked via telephone interviews conducted during the period of July 12-29, 1995 (see Appendix I). Data were coded and read into SPSS system files. Frequency and crosstabulation output were translated into spreadsheet 1

3 format for presentation in this report. Results and Discussion The issues are divided into nine logical categories for data analysis, corresponding to the types of questions asked. Each is discussed with respect to marginal frequencies and then as controlled by the demographic variables. How things are: The first category (Appendix III, questions 2-4) reflects satisfaction with the condition of the national, state and local government. While the marginal frequencies clearly indicate nearly 2:1 negative responses to the national conditions (46% vs 25% think we are on the wrong track) and nearly 3:1 negative conditions for the state (58% vs. 23% think we are on the wrong track), the local community receives a more favorable 2:1 positive response (54% vs. 26% think local government is on the right track). These findings are relatively homogeneous across demographic categories. When controlled, few differences appear in any category of age, gender, ethnicity, income, education and political affiliation. However, for the nation, blacks (61% dissatisfied) and Asians (26% dissatisfied) vary significantly from the 46% overall percentage. For the state, the largest difference is the relatively higher dissatisfaction among democrats (65%) vs. republicans (51%). For the local communities, there is a tendency for the group (66%) and the $65,000+ income group (64%) to feel slightly more satisfied than the overall sample. Ballot Measures: The second category (Appendix IV-IVa, questions 6-9) dealt with questions of how respondents would vote on the potential ballot measures of abolishing affirmative action, starting a school voucher program, cross-party voting in primaries, and raising the minimum wage to $5.25. Results indicate the population was likely to vote approximately 2:1 (56% to 31%) in favor of abolishing affirmative action. The vote was roughly 3:2 (54% vs. 38%) in favor of open primary voting and 5:2 (68% vs 26%) in favor of raising the minimum wage to $5.25. On the other hand, there is virtually no difference for starting a school voucher system (47% vs. 45%). When looking at abolishing affirmative action, only political affiliation differences appeared. Republicans (66%) were more likely to vote yes than democrats (46%). As for the minimum wage increase question, there was a slightly higher tendency for females (75%), minorities (89%), less educated (76%) and democrats (84%) to vote yes. No such variation existed for the open primary voting question or the school voucher program. Bond Measures: The third category (Appendix V, questions 10a-10d) asked about support versus opposition concerning a school bond, freeway bond, prison bond and all three. Results indicate that there is more than 3:2 support (56% vs 33%) for the school bond, approximately 2:1 support (59% vs 30%) for the freeway bond, but nearly 3:2 opposition (50% vs 37%) for the prison bond and roughly the same opposition for the prospect of all three (50% vs 33%). 2

4 Some demographic variation is apparent. For the school bond, support is highest among year-olds (77%), Asians (82%) and democrats (64%). For the freeway bond, there appears slightly more support among Hispanics (75%), Asians (85%) and democrats (65%). Opposition to the prison bond, as well as opposition to all three, however, appears to be uniform across all demographic variables. Importance of Issues: The fourth category (Appendix VI, questions 14a through 14u) dealt with 21 topical issues, ranging from improving education to preventing the expansion of gambling, asking the respondent how important was each. Results clearly show that voters rate, as the highest percentage of "very important," the issues of improving education (84%), addressing crime (86%), reforming welfare (80%) and improving the economy (87%). The next highest percentages of very important were the issues of reducing spending (66%), improving health care (64%), protecting the environment (64%), providing affordable auto insurance (67%), protecting consumers, defending senior citizens' rights (63%), making guns hard to buy (63%) and fighting the spread of AIDS (74%). Next highest were the issues of repealing affirmative action (41%), lowering state taxes (50%), defending women's (47%) and minorities' (41%) interests, reducing utility rates (46%), and providing for affordable earthquake insurance (46%). Lowest on the percentage of very important issues was preventing the expansion of gambling (26%). Few variations among demographic variables manifest in the first set of issues. However, in the second set, several differences appeared. With respect to reducing spending, the elderly (70%), Hispanic (75%), those with some college (72%) and republicans (76%) were slightly more likely to think this item was "very important". Moreover, with respect to improving health care, women (69%), blacks (89%), lower income individuals (70%), those with high school or less education (71%) and democrats (80%) showed higher-than-average ratings of "very important." With respect to protecting the environment, democrats (76%) and Asians (78%) rated higher than average. On the issue of lowering state taxes, individuals with high school or less education (61%) and Hispanics (75%) rate higher than average. Interestingly, with respect to affordable auto insurance, protecting consumers and defending senior citizens' interests, a similar trend occurs. Females (72%, 69% and 67%), blacks and Hispanics (85%, 85% and 87%), lower income individuals (76%, 73% and 76%), those with less education (77%, 73%, 77%) and democrats (74%, 72% and 71%) all rate higher than average. For curbing immigration, those with less education (71%) and republicans (70%) rated higher. For making a gun hard to buy, the elderly (77%), women (75%), less educated (71%) and democrats (72%) rated higher. And for fighting the spread of AIDS, women (80%), lower income (81%), less educated (82%) and democrats (84%) rated higher. In the rated less important categories, such as defending women's and minorities' interests, blacks (72% and 89%), and democrats (60% and 57%) rated higher. In the repeal affirmative action issue, lower income (46%) less educated (50%) and republicans (49%) rated 3

5 higher. For the reduction of utility rates issue, older (53%), women (52%), lower income (59%) and less educated (61%) rated higher. Finally, the issue of affordable earthquake insurance shows that the elderly (56%), women (53%), lower income (56%) and less educated (54%) rate higher. Attitudes Toward Other Issues: Category five dealt with favoring or opposing ten issues of public importance such as university tuition, weapons, auto and earthquake insurance (Appendix VII-VIId). Results show that voters favor a rollback of university tuition 3:1 (72% vs 23%); oppose allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons 3:1 (70% vs 26%); favor banning semi-automatic weapons 3:1 (76% vs 24%); favor allowing lower earthquake insurance more than 4:1 (73% vs 17%); favor requiring auto insurance for everyone 5:1 (84% vs 14%); and favor changing to no fault insurance more than 3:1 (64% vs 19%). Voters are less polarized but still favor the elimination of affirmative action (55% vs 39%); oppose the protection of endangered species (50% vs 44%); favor restriction of the amount of damages in a civil suit (59% vs 33%); and favor the repeal of the law requiring insurance companies to provide earthquake insurance (51% vs 33%). Controlling for demographic variables, the tuition issue shows that year-olds (82%), Asians (85%) and democrats (79%) are most likely to favor the rollback. For banning semi-automatic weapons, women (83%), Asians (85%), college grads (83%) and democrats (80%) are the most in favor. The rest of the high consensus issues showed little differences across demographic categories. The less consensual categories, however, do show some effects. For example, eliminating affirmative action shows that whites (57%) are more likely to favor than blacks (30%) and republicans are more likely to favor (68%) than democrats (41%). Conversely, for protecting endangered species democrats (55%) are more likely than republicans (30%) to favor, as are college grads (54%) vs high school or less (34%). Government Subsidy: The sixth category (Appendix VIII, questions 19a-d), makes four statements concerning not subsidizing the poor, abortions, state boards, and the workers' rights board. These, apparently, are very non-controversial issues. As to the poor, there is a tendency to agree with the statement (48% vs 40%), as is so with the abortion question (47% vs 46%). For eliminating state boards there is a tendency to disagree (41% vs 46% disagree), as is more strongly the case with not funding workers' rights boards (24% vs 69% disagree). Controlling for demographics, political affiliation appears to differentiate both statements about the poor and abortions. Republicans are much more likely to agree with the poor being better off without government (61% vs 35% for democrats), that taxpayers should not pay for women's abortions (59% vs 37% for democrats), and that workers' rights boards should be stopped (30% vs 17% for democrats). As for the elimination of state boards, the biggest difference appears in income. Lower income is more likely to agree than upper income (52% vs 32%). 4

6 Budget Choices: Category seven (Appendix IX, questions 21-25) asked the respondent to choose between all pairings of budget choices concerning reducing taxes, putting more money in elementary and secondary education, more money for new prisons, and more money for higher education. Results show that voters are 2:1 more in favor of increasing money to both elementary/secondary and university education than lowering taxes (65% vs 28% and 59% vs 32%, respectively). They are 4:1 more in favor of increasing money to both elementary/secondary and university education than to putting more money into building new prisons (78% vs 13% and 73% vs 18%, respectively). Finally, they are more in favor of reducing taxes than building new prisons (54% vs 37%). It would appear, therefore, that education at all levels has the highest priority, lowering taxes is next, and providing more money to build new prisons is last. When controlling for demographics, democrats are more likely than republicans to favor money to schools over reducing taxes (74% vs 56% for elementary/primary and 68% vs 51% for university), as they are for schools over prisons (87% vs 70% for elementary/secondary and 84% vs 62% for universities). And predictably year-olds vs elderly, were far more likely to want more money for universities than for either reducing taxes or building new prisons (78% vs 52% for taxes and 86% vs 66% for prisons). Miscellaneous Issues: Category eight (Appendix X, questions 11, 12, 16, 17, 20 and 26) asked about the respondents' abortion position, whether government should pay for abortions, whether income is ahead of inflation, whether the California economy is improving, whether the state should abolish overtime for eight hour day and whether legislators should vote their conscience or compromise to get the budget in on time. Results show that voters by a 2:1 margin are more likely to be pro choice (62% vs 29%), and are more likely to think government has no right to dictate a woman's family planning (53% vs 36%). Moreover, a majority say they are falling behind inflation (55%), while nearly half (48%) think California's economy has gotten worse. By a 5:1 margin (78% vs 17%) voters feel the state should not abolish the eight hour day. And by a 2:1 margin (60% vs 28%) voters feel legislators should vote their conscience. Few distinctions appear according to demographics, with these exceptions: For abortions, democrats are more likely to be pro choice (71% vs 53%) and feel government has no right in family planning (60% vs 47%). For income vs inflation, minorities (70%), low income (62%), less education (62%) and democrats (61%) are more likely to feel they are falling behind. Perceptions of job performance: The last category, nine, (Appendix XI, questions 13a-13r) asks the respondent to rate the job performance of the leading politicians and political bodies in the nation and state. Data are tabulated only for those whose recognition where high. Results were pessimistic. Voters feel President Clinton (65%), Dole (49%), Gingrich (51%), Feinstein (59%), Boxer (55%) and Wilson (65%) are doing a fair to poor job rather than an excellent to good job. Moreover, for the state senate, assembly and county supervisors, the perceptions are even worse. Voters feel 5:1 that the senate (69%), 6:1 that the Assembly (69%) 5

7 and 2:1 that their county board of supervisors (54%) are doing only a fair to poor job. Controlling for demographics, the differences in perception of the politicians show up only in political affiliation. Republicans are more likely to rate Clinton fair to poor (80% vs 50% for democrats). Conversely, democrats are more likely to rate Dole and Gingrich fair to poor (66% vs 29% for Dole and 73% vs 28% for Gingrich). The same political affiliation differences appear for Feinstein, Boxer and Wilson. Republicans, more than democrats, rate Feinstein and Boxer fair to poor (73% vs 45% for Feinstein and 68% vs 42% for Boxer), while democrats, more than republicans rate Wilson fair to poor (81% vs 47%). For the political bodies, there were no distinctions other than gender. For the state senate and assembly, males tended to be more critical than females in rating them fair to poor (74% vs 63% for the senate and 76% vs 62% for the assembly). 6

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