California split-roll, affirmative action measures struggle to gain traction

By Carla Marinucci 10/22/2020 12:01 AM EDT

OAKLAND — Despite support from Gov. Gavin Newsom and organizations aligned with Democrats, ballot measures that would increase commercial property taxes and reinstate affirmative action are struggling to gain traction as time runs short before Election Day.

Californians remain sharply divided on Prop 15, a ballot measure that would revise how commercial and industrial property is taxed for the first time in decades, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday night.

That comes after a $130 million advertising blitz over the ballot measure, with unions and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fueling proponents and business groups paying for the opposition drive. Prop 15 spending has been more evenly divided than for any other measure on the ballot, and the poll finds that 49 percent of likely voters are in support and 45 percent opposed.

PPIC surveyed Californians between Oct. 9-18 as the state’s 21.2 million voters were already returning ballots in record numbers this early in the election period.

With just two weeks until the final votes are cast on Nov. 3, a high-profile ballot measure to revive affirmative action in public universities and hiring still appears headed for defeat, according to the PPIC’s “Californians and their Government” poll. Prop 16 calls for the repeal of Prop 209, a 1996 constitutional amendment that banned the use of affirmative action in state colleges and universities.

Among likely voters, 37 percent back the measure, while 50 percent oppose it and 12 percent remain undecided.

The lackluster support for Prop 16 has been one of the most counterintuitive trends of the election cycle after a summer of racial justice activism spurred by the May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. State lawmakers believed the time was right to ask voters to repeal Prop 209, but supporters have openly wondered if the ballot repeal question is too confusing and required a much larger effort to educate voters.

Prop 15, the so-called split roll measure on the November ballot, calls for changing the tax assessment of commercial and industrial properties valued over $3 million by basing the rate on current market value instead of purchase price.

The measure has been the focus of a pricey ballot war and was endorsed by the California Democratic Party and high profile leaders, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, as well as educational and labor unions including the California Teachers Association. Backers have spent nearly $70 million on a campaign to argue it would raise $12 billion a year for schools and communities.

But opponents including the California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable and the state GOP have countered with $60 million in spending to argue the measure would inflict undue pain on business and cost thousands of jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Farm groups have also joined the fray, arguing that it would lead to higher food prices.page1image35780288page1image35771648page1image35776064

Among other key findings in the PPIC poll:

— California voters expressed unusually robust enthusiasm for participating this year, with 72 percent of likely voters saying they are more enthusiastic about voting this year — a record high in PPIC surveys.

— On the eve of the final presidential debate, Biden holds a formidable 26 point lead over Republican Donald Trump, with 58 percent of likely voters favoring Biden/Harris and 32 percent favoring Trump and Vice President Mike Pence among likely voters.

— Fifty-eight percent of Californians approve of Newsom’s job performance, with a whopping two-thirds approving of how he’s handled the Covid-19 pandemic. And a majority approve of how the Democratic- controlled California Legislature is handling its job.

— But just 35 percent of adults approve of Trump and less than one-third approve of his handling of Covid- 19. Congress also has a low approval rating, at 36 percent.

— About 40 percent of Californians believe the U.S. Senate should confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, compared with 47 percent of adults who believe the Senate should reject confirmation.

— Seven in 10 Californians believe the U.S. Supreme Court should not overturn Roe v. Wade — including 53 percent of Republicans.

— Two-thirds of residents are more concerned about coronavirus vaccine approval moving too quickly rather than too slowly. That bolsters Newsom’s announcement this week that his 11-member task force must review and sign off on a vaccine before it is released in California.

— Support is roughly split for Republicans and Democrats in competitive congressional districts, another indication that turnout will be crucial in those races. Forty-nine percent of likely voters said they would lean toward or support the GOP candidate compared to 47 percent who said they would go for the Democratic candidate.

— Californians have a generally positive view of their state, the poll showed. Asked if California was headed in the right or wrong direction, 55 percent of all adults said the right direction, 39 percent the wrong direction and 5 percent said they had no view.

— Regarding California’s congressional leaders, 48 percent of all adults say they approve of the job Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing, while 44 percent disapprove, with the remainder having no opinion. That compares to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who gets 35 percent approval among all adults and 38 percent disapproval for his job performance, the poll showed.

The PPIC poll of 1,701 adult Californians has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points overall and 4.3 percent for likely voters. The margin of error for likely voter subgroups is larger.

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