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    Voters Cool To Port Infrastructure Expansion/Transportation Bond, Survey Shows

    (September 2, 2006) -- The Public Policy Institute of CA (PPIC), a San Francisco-based think-tank, has released the results of a survey indicating Californians question spending more money to promote growth, and doubt their state government's ability to provide leadership, leaving the outcome for a November's infrastructure bond package "up in the air."

    Support for a proposed Port infrastructure expansion/transportation bond is only at 50% "yes" with 38% "no" [significant because it's before opponents begin pointing out its negatives]. Its the second-worst performing in the package of five bonds (four assembled behind closed doors by the legislature and Governor) facing taxpayers on the November ballot.

    The survey also shows that the public's approval rating of the state legislature is lower now than it was two years ago.

    "There is really a disconnect between Californians’ preferences and the choices they are being presented with," said PPIC survey director Mark Baldassare in a release. "The conversation took place without them, but they'll have the last word."

    The PPIC release states in pertinent part:

    ...Four in 10 residents (38%) have little or no confidence in the state government’s ability to plan for California’s future growth. But how would state residents choose to manage this growth? Here, they are in general agreement, preferring mostly to manage existing systems more efficiently rather than undertake costly new projects: 70 percent of state residents prefer to focus on making more efficient use of freeways and highways and expanding mass transit rather than building new freeways...

    Against this backdrop, voters are being asked to vote on a package of growth-related bond measures. Although each of the four infrastructure measures that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislature put on the ballot are supported by at least 50 percent of likely voters, that support is far from overwhelming:

    • Proposition 1B ($19.9 billion transportation bond): 50 percent yes, 38 percent no
    • Proposition 1C ($2.85 billion affordable housing bond): 57 percent yes, 32 percent no
    • Proposition 1D ($10.4 billion education facilities bond): 51 percent yes, 39 percent no
    • Proposition 1E ($4.1 billion water and flood control bond): 56 percent yes, 35 percent no
    • A fifth measure – Proposition 84 – would provide about $5.4 billion in state bonds for water, flood control, natural resources, parks, and conservation projects. Voters are currently split over this initiative (40% yes, 45% no). While likely voters generally like the idea of using state bonds to pay for infrastructure projects, support is lower today than it was four years ago (59% today from 69% in September 2002). The sheer size of the package may also be a reason for the tepid response: 59 percent of likely voters say the $43 billion price tag for the five bond measures on the ballot is too much.

    And approval ratings for the state legislature is even lower than two years ago.

    "Residents are more likely today than they were two years ago to say they disapprove of the way the state legislature (54% today from 47% in August 2004) and governor (46% today from 30% in 2004) are handling plans and policies for the state’s future. The state legislature fares poorly overall, with majorities of adults (53%) and likely voters (61%) unhappy with its performance," the release said.

    The survey found that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval ratings have risen in recent months: "Residents are now as likely to approve as they are to disapprove (44% to 46%) of the job he is doing, an 8-point improvement since May. The governor’s approval rating among likely voters is also up by eight points, with 50 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving of his performance in office."

    The survey indicates Governor Schwarzenegger leads Democrat challenger, State Treasurer Phil Angelides, by a 13-point margin among likely voters (45% to 32%). 82 percent of Republicans favor Schwarzenegger but only 58 percent of Democrats favor Angelides.

    "Independents are choosing Schwarzenegger over Angelides by a wide margin (42% to 23%). Schwarzenegger’s lead in Republican-leaning areas is commanding -- 30 points in the Central Valley and 23 points in the Southern California counties outside of Los Angeles. Angelides’ performance in key Democratic enclaves is less convincing: He leads by 10 points in the San Francisco Bay Area, while Schwarzenegger actually enjoys a slight lead in Los Angeles (41% to 36%). And finally, Democrats (42%) are much less likely than Republicans (58%) to be satisfied with their gubernatorial choices."

    Nearly two thirds of Democrats (65%), Republicans (63%), and likely voters generally (64%) say they're very or fairly closely following news about the coming November election...but "this level of interest is low by historical standards. In August 2002 -- prior to the last scheduled gubernatorial election -- 74 percent of likely voters were closely following election news. As a barometer of voter interest, this comparison is worrisome: The 2002 governor’s election had the lowest general election turnout of registered voters in the state’s history," the release said.

    PPIC said its survey indicates Californians are disillusioned with government...and Californians want to be the deciders.

    What’s fueling the lack of interest in the November election? Californians’ deep distrust of state government may have something to do with it. Only 31 percent of state residents – and 23 percent of likely voters – say they trust state government to do what is right just about always or most of the time. Strong majorities of state residents (63%) and likely voters (72%) say they trust government only some of the time. Faith in government has plummeted in recent years: In January 2002, 47 percent of Californians said they trust government to do what is right always or some of the time. In keeping with their negative views of state leadership, many residents believe the state wastes a lot of their tax dollars (58%) and is run by a few big interests (66%). One exception to this perception? Latinos are far more likely than are whites to trust state government just about always or most of the time (45% to 24%) and to believe that state government is run for the benefit of all the people (38% to 22%).


    More Key Findings

    ...Immigration (21%) and education (18%) continue to top the list of issues likely voters want to hear their gubernatorial candidates discuss in the coming months, followed distantly by jobs and the economy (9%), the state budget (8%), and the environment (6%). Democrats (23%) are more likely to cite education as their top issue, while Republicans (32%) name immigration. Latinos (32%) are more likely than whites (20%) to say they want to hear the candidates talk about immigration...

    ...In planning for the population growth that will take place over the next two decades, Californians think improving the economy and jobs (34%) should be the most important priority, followed by providing roads, schools and water systems (23%), protecting the environment (15%), and creating a more equal society (10%). Affordable housing (32%) is seen as a higher priority for funding than are school facilities (25%), surface transportation (21%), or water systems and flood control (12%). Residents are not of one mind when it comes to which type of surface transportation should receive first priority for dollars as the state girds for new growth: 50 percent opt for transit oriented projects, including light rail (36%), and public bus systems (14%), while 40 percent choose road-oriented solutions, including freeways (25%), local streets and roads (9%), and carpool lanes (6%)...

    PPIC's survey on "Californians and the Future" is the first in a four-survey series made possible with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. "Findings of this survey are based on a telephone survey of 2,001 California adult residents interviewed between August 16 and August 23, 2006. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The sampling error for the total sample is +/- 2% and for the 989 likely voters is +/- 3%," PPIC said in its release.

    PPIC, a private, nonprofit entity, says it's "dedicated to improving public policy through objective, nonpartisan research on the economic, social, and political issues that affect Californians. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office."

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