Nail-Biter in California

I’ve done a couple of posts on California ballot initiatives already, but wanted to mention the public opinion research that is showing all but one of the eleven ballot measures in some trouble. The most comprehensive was offered by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for USC and the L.A. Times, which showed Prop 36, an initiative to get rid of stupid life sentences for minor offenses caused by the Three Strikes law, as the only one with majority support.

Prop 37, which would impose new labeling requirements for genetically modified foods, still has plurality support but is losing ground to heavy advertising from agribusiness interests. Prop 34, which would replace the erratically enforced death penalty with a life-without-parole option, is trailing narrowly. And Prop 32, a “paycheck protection” initiative bitterly opposed by unions, seems to be going down to a solid defeat.

The finding that’s getting the most attention, however, involves Prop 30, Jerry Brown’s tax-and-budget initiative, which has been bleeding support (in part because of a competing tax-increase-for-education initiative, Prop 38, which has no chance of winning but has caused confusion) but still has a narrow (46/42) advantage even as Brown intensifies his personal campaigning for it while not-so-privately encouraging labor to switch its emphasis to 30 as opposed to 32.

A separate poll, from the Public Policy Institute of California, has very similar findings, with Prop 30 up 48-44 and Prop 32 down 39-53. Similar trend lines were found by the Field Poll a bit earlier; Field showed Prop 30 slipping to 51% on October 20.

California ballot initiatives typically fail if they don’t achieve majority support levels in pre-election polls. Given the rather catastrophic budgetary trajectory of the state absent the kind of measures contained in Prop 30, Brown better kick out the jams.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.