Tag Archives: Polling

The Problem with Polling and Top-2

Flawed polling in SoS race

by Brian Leubitz

With Sen. Yee dropping out of the Secretary of State’s race, the media and the polling operations have been in something of a frenzy to figure out how that will impact the race. And, so, you would think that a poll that was being conducted during that mess could have some very interesting data.

It could, but the Field Poll that was being conducted while Yee was arrested has a few very serious flaws. First, here are the up-front numbers after the Yee arrest: Peterson-R: 30%, Padilla-D: 17%, Curtis-G: 5%, Schnur-NPP: 4%, Cressman-D: 3%, Other/Undecided: 41%.

That’s all well and good, but let’s look at a few flaws in this poll.

1) The poll didn’t include all the candidates on the ballot. Ordinarily in a competitive race with just a few relatively well-known candidates, you can kind of forgive that. However, this is a different kind of race. There are a slew of unknown candidates. Even Padilla, who is the most known candidate in the race, was basically an unknown to 54% of likely voters. But the poll did not include two candidates who haven’t filed fundraising reports with the state: Jeffrey Drobman and Roy Allmond.

Now, to be clear, neither of these two will be your next secretary of state. And they won’t pick up a ton of votes. But Allmond is running as a Republican, splitting the generic Republican vote. Drobman is running as a Democrat and may cause problems for Democrats as well. However, that split of base Republican vote could be meaningful. Peterson, with his $1800 or so that he has in the bank still seems likely to grab one of the top-two positions, but that is hardly a given.

2) The poll was split between pre and post-Yee. The margin of error is higher than most Field polls, with a 5.5% pre-Yee MoE, and 6.5% post-Yee MoE.

3) Winning the June primary is essentially meaningless. We do not have head-to-head matchups in this poll

Conclusion: I normally love the Field Poll data, and some of the things about the coverage that have been bothering me have nothing to do with Field at all. The media should know that winning the June election doesn’t really make you a frontrunner, but that doesn’t stop Breitbart declaring that Peterson is “favored” to win. Yes, he is favored to win the vote totals in June, but that and a quarter will get you a gumball.

Give me data for a head to head matchup between Peterson and Padilla, and then see what we get before any leads are declared. Note that this is also an issue in the Controller’s race. SacBee declared Mayor Ashley Swearingen the leader in that race, despite the fact that Democratic vote is split. Top-2 is apparently creating a lot of confusion for both reporters and readers, but in many ways, it isn’t that different than a regular primary when it comes to vote consolidation. Most Democrats will vote for the Democratic candidate in November, so comparing June vote totals is more than a bit confusing. Perhaps headline writers could do a better job on this front?

I mean, come on, do you really think this video at the top of this post is going to push Peterson to the win?

PPIC Poll Shows Large Information Gap

California voters are against cuts, mixed on taxes.

by Brian Leubitz

When the Republican realized that they could make some electoral gains from becoming the “Second Santa”with their tax cuts, they knew they were on to something.  They didn’t have to be the bad guys promoting spending cuts, and their tax cuts would somehow net just as much revenue because the magic “Laffer curve” would make everything better. And if it didn’t work, well, the Democrats would have to cut spending and do the dirty work.

And, unsurprisingly, it worked. It has clearly worked in California, where Prop 13 and its anti-tax brethren have wreaked havoc on the state.  For a few decades we were able to hide much of this through some huge bubbles and creative accounting, but that is a thing of the past.  And so we have a huge deficit, a dysfunctional tax system, and a government that only allows cuts. What’s a Republican to do to keep up his role as a second santa?

Well, blame it all on “waste, fraud, and abuse.”  It’s a simple lie that, when repeated enough, becomes mantra to the media and, eventually, the general public.  Take the latest PPIC poll and the latest finding:

Most Californians (59% adults, 55% likely voters) believe state government could cut spending and still provide the same level of services.

“There remains a strong belief that the state government could spend less and provide the same services even as Californians notice local service reductions from state spending cuts and show early support for a tax increase,” says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. (PPIC)

When the budget first got bad a few years back, perhaps there was a bit of fat to trim around the budget. Some unnecessary expenditures here and an unsuccessful program there. Not enough to fix the budget, but a few billion could be saved without fundamentally changing the role of government.

Those days are gone. Cuts to government expenditures mean direct cuts to services. There is simply no way to provide the same level of services for an ever decreasing amount of money. Go take a look at your local government offices and then compare it to the offices of your local bank corporate office.  There are no fancy waterfalls and lavish breakrooms offering wide selections of Odwalla and Rice Krispies, there are just a dwindling level of state employees working ever harder to keep up.  Teachers are spending large chunks of their paychecks to provide supplies for their classrooms and their students. Cuts to CalFire put firefighters in very real danger and mean more damage to California homes.

And yet, a strong majority of Californians are living in a world where we can somehow make painless cuts? Do they know of any of these painless cuts? Do the Republicans? Have they ever presented any of these so-called painless cuts?

But while 40 percent of adults and likely voters prefer closing the state’s budget gap with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases-the approach Brown has proposed-similar proportions (35% adults, 41% likely voters) prefer closing it mainly through spending cuts. That being said, when read a summary, 72 percent of adults and 68 percent of likely voters favor Brown’s initiative proposal.

Interestingly, the PPIC data also shows much stronger support for raising the highest income tax bracket(74% adults, 68% likely voters) than the sales tax. The sales tax is opposed by 69% of adults, 64% of likely voters. That particular question raises the specter of competing tax measures, the “Kardashian” tax and Brown’s own measure. There is still a lot of time before signatures are due, and Brown has been working to shut down any other revenue measure. Whether he is successful or not will still take a while to know, but may end up dramatically changing the odds of his own measure.

While there have been efforts at public education on the budget by state politicians, it is a monstrous task, especially when there are players on the other side actively promoting misinformation.  But, at every opportunity, progressives must be sure to emphasize the point that waste, fraud, and abuse is not an answer to all of our budget woes and to explain the real budget situation.

Don’t Believe New Revenues Are a Losing Issue

In polling, the answer you get depends heavily on the question. Obvious enough, right?

Few should understand this point better than the prestigious, independent Field Institute, whose polls on California issues often contribute to the public debate.

So why is Field polluting the discussion around revenues in California with bad questions and bad data?

We can and must do better, and soon.

The most recent Field Poll scans the horizon for support levels on prospective special-election issues

(get the poll here, and the fascinating cross-tab results here).

It’s helpful to see, in this poll, where Californians would cut to help reduce the state budget deficit. Basically, most voters would cut nothing except prisons and, perhaps, the costs of environmental regulation. Republicans would cut a lot more, except K-12 public schools.

The broad consensus is against almost any cuts that would be needed to meet the state’s widening budget chasm.

So are people willing to support new revenues? (OK, let’s go ahead and say “tax increases.”)

Not according to Field. But look at how they asked the question. Registered voters were asked to respond to: “I would be willing to pay higher taxes to help the state balance its budget.”

Even that poor wording got 43% support overall. Democrats and independent voters gave it 53% support.

But look at what’s missing in the question. The wording speaks to who would pay the higher taxes – the respondent – but how much? And for what purpose?

There’s no limit stated, no type of tax enumerated. And the purpose is as grim as they get: “help[ing] the state balance its budget.” If you have ever seen California voters talk about the state budget, they view it as a black hole rife with waste.

It’s astonishing that there’s a core of 43% willing to shovel their own money into a ditch to help “the state” fix “its budget.”

Of course there are many better ways to ask this kind of question. For instance, you could ask voters if they’d pay more to protect the specific programs and services they like. (Which is basically everything but prisons.) Linking tax increases to specific purposes helps a lot.

Or you could ask about specific kinds of taxes that don’t mainly affect the individuals responding to the poll. An oil extraction tax gets big numbers in polling for lots of reasons, one of them being who it’s targeted at (highly profitable oil companies).

An increase in income taxes on the wealthiest Californians similarly scores well because – as much as we may try – most Californians don’t fit into the top 1%, 5%, or even 10% on the income scale. (Disclosure: I managed the campaign for Prop. 63, which added a 1% surcharge on annual income over $1 million to support mental health programs.)

And if you present the facts properly, I’d bet you’d see majorities supporting a split-roll property tax, or at least a fix to change-in-ownership rules for commercial property.

We need to educate voters about the degree to which we have a revenue problem that’s been papered over for 20 years and salvaged occasionally by bogus economic bubbles. There are lots of sensible ways to raise money and not have undue impact on the people who can least afford it. If there’s ever going to be a time to find billions of dollars in steady new revenue sources, we’re pretty near the “hair on fire” phase now where that will be both necessary and possible.

Don’t believe you’d be limited to 43% support for a raft of revenue measures. Smartly designed, longer-lasting revenue solutions will have an audience – an even bigger audience if we don’t see this special election happen, or if the tax extensions fail and we flop into devastating austerity. Let’s get to work now.  

Small Business Support for Clean Energy A Key to 2010 Elections?

Yesterday’s Democratic Senate caucus meeting – combined with Majority Leader Reid’s push on this issue, combined with President Obama’s leadership, combined with a clear demand by the public for action – has given comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation a major boost as we head towards the 4th of July recess. Clearly, at this point, there’s a better path to 60 votes in the U.S. Senate for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation than ever before. We are that close to making history, let’s make sure we seize this moment!

With all that in mind, a recent national survey by Al Quinlan of Greenburg Quinlan Rosner Research has potentially powerful implications for the 2010 elections, providing yet more evidence that climate legislation – despite a fallacious “mainstream media” narrative arguing otherwise – is actually good politics. The key findings are threefold (note: the document talks about strategy for the Democratic Party, but could apply to Republicans as well):

  1. Small businesses “are among America’s most popular entities,” with an eye-popping 44:1 favorable to unfavorable ratio (“the highest we have ever seen in our polling on any topic”)
  2. Generating support from small business owners, for either political party, is a key to success in the upcoming mid-term elections.
  3. Small business owners strongly agree “that a move to clean energy will help restart the economy and lead to job creation by small businesses.” In fact, according to Greenburg Quinlan, “One of the most surprising findings of the survey is that despite the fact that nearly two thirds of business owners believe it would increase costs for their businesses, a majority still want to move forward on clean energy and climate policy.”

As if that’s not evidence enough that there’s broad support out there for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation, how about this Benenson Survey Group survey, conducted in late May/early June 2010? The key findings of this poll are:

  • 65% of “likely 2010 voters” believe that “the federal government should invest much more than it currently invests [or] somewhat more than it currently invests .”
  • 63% of “likely 2010 voters” support an energy bill that would “limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy…in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like gas.”
  • Among “undecided voters,” “62% support the bill and just 21% oppose.”

There is also strong evidence from this polling that voters – including independent voters by a 2.5:1 margin – are strongly inclined, by around a 2:1 margin, to be “more likely to re-elect” their Senator if he or she voted for a strong, comprehensive, clean energy and climate bill.

In sum, solid majorities of small businesspeople and the public at large both support comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. Which is why, once again – as we pointed out yesterday – the “mainstream media” narrative, that voting for limits on carbon pollution is bad politics, is just dead wrong. To the contrary, victory this November could go to the candidates – and the party – that seizes this issue and makes it their own. Ideally, it would be great to see both Republicans and Democrats fighting to be the “greenest” candidate, and not just in terms of how much money they raise.

UPDATE: Add another poll to the list, this one by WSJ-NBC indicating that “Respondents favored comprehensive energy and carbon pollution reduction legislation by 63 percent to 31 percent – a two to one margin.”


CA-10: Garamendi Poised For Victory, Only Woods Has Momentum

As John Garamendi touts in a diary here, the most recent SurveyUSA poll shows the Lt. Governor with a comfortable lead in the CA-10 primary set for Tuesday.  I am surprised that another candidate hasn’t talked it up as well, however, because the only candidate showing movement from the previous SurveyUSA poll is Anthony Woods.

In fact, this new poll, from 8/26-8/27, has Garamendi at 25%, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier at 16%, Asm. Joan Buchanan at 12% and Anthony Woods at 9%, with 5% undecided.  The last poll, from 8/10-8/11 was Garamendi 26%, DeSaulnier 15%, Buchanan 12% and Woods 5%.  I don’t think there are enough undecided voters to push Woods much further, but he’s running the only race drawing undecided voters, if the polls can be believed.

Among those who have already voted, the numbers are similar: Garamendi 27%, DeSaulnier 18%, Buchanan 13% and Woods 10%.

Certainly, Garamendi looks very strong for victory, and there aren’t likely to be enough voters Tuesday to favor a late riser, but Anthony Woods is running the only race moving from no built-in support to a credible challenge.  As for the relative flatness of the two state legislators, I’d say the choice by Sen. DeSaulnier to decide on a monomaniac focus on Garamendi’s residency issue, which simply has not moved voters in numerous other instances, instead of giving voters a reason to support him, would offer some answer.  Buchanan has run a self-funded campaign focused mainly on finding female support, but not necessarily a larger message.  In an environment with three safe or fairly lackluster campaigns, the expected form is holding.  Only Woods appears to be taking in new support, but his uphill battle was perhaps too high to climb.

The Sacramento Syndrome

Dan Walters is touting a UC Riverside poll on budget issues that interviewed 276 respondents, 63% male, with a 42-38-11 split among Democrats, Republicans and independents.  He does this with a straight face.

It barely matters what such a flawed poll shows, but I’ll mention it anyway.  According to 276 people, 57% support the 2/3 requirement for passing a budget, 24% preferred a simple majority, 6% in between, 4% other (?), and 6% don’t know.  Given the bad methodology, these numbers mean nothing.

But I’ll tell you who has historically taken numbers like these as the gospel’s truth and used them to mute themselves about any reform efforts for thirty years.  That would be the leaders of the California Democratic Party.  And they latch on to any poll numbers showing a view like this as a blunt instrument to kick hippies, not a starting point for the political advocacy and opinion leadership that can and should be done to change perspectives.

Here’s the problem, in a nutshell.  In 1978 California passed Prop. 13, and Democrats have run for cover ever since.  They should have put up a fight immediately.  But instead, Democrats cowered in fear of losing power, despite the demographic shifts in the state since the mid-1990s, so they lay low and never advocate for the necessary reforms, and buy completely into the myth that the 70’s-era tax revolt remains alive and well, and they take public opinion polls like this as static and unchangeable through anything resembling leadership.  Obviously Republicans are insane in this state, but they can barely manage 1/3 of the legislature (and if we had a half-decent campaign apparatus among California Democrats they’d lose that too) and shouldn’t be feared in any respect.  Yet our Democratic leadership exists in a post-1978 fog, a kind of “Sacramento Syndrome,” where they’ve come to love their captors on the right, and have bought into their claims.

Meanwhile, the David Binder memo, with ten times the poll respondents and a clear majority favoring a broad swath of tax increases over spending cuts to deal with the deficit, goes unmentioned by virtually everyone in this state.  And in that desert, voters go vainly on a futile search for leadership.  They find nothing but shell-shocked politicians.

…As if on cue, view for yourself the craptastic “Post-Budget Reform Push” press release Assembly Speaker Bass just dropped.  You’ll be thrilled to know that your state government will be more “user-friendly” when leaving AIDS patients and the poor to die on the streets.  You can almost smell the fear coming off this press release (on the flip):


SACRAMENTO-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) today announced the California Assembly will begin preparing information and analyses on ways state government can better serve Californians.  The move is in advance of a joint Assembly-Senate government reform effort expected to begin in July following passage of solutions to the state’s budget deficit.

Bass released the following statement regarding the effort:

“As the Budget Conference Committee continues to meet and we work to resolve the state’s budget deficit, Senator Steinberg and I are also looking ahead to developing a bicameral, bipartisan, back-to-basics approach to reform what is wrong with California’s system of government.

The following are examples of goals this effort could include:

Making government more customer-friendly.

Giving Californians more value for their tax dollars by making government more efficient and accountable.

Cutting through the gridlock caused by outmoded rules and undue partisanship-gridlock that only leads to late budgets and last minute decision making.

Consolidating agencies and functions so they make sense and save money.  Not just blowing up boxes, but also folding, stacking and storing others more efficiently so the ones we need fit the room we have for them.

Building on the upcoming recommendations of the bipartisan Commission for a 21st Century Economy so our revenue system makes more sense.

Making government more transparent and accessible from around the state.

The Assembly will immediately begin compiling a wide variety of ideas, information and input on these areas.  This way the bicameral reform effort will have the resources and data they need to move forward quickly and effectively with a lot of the necessary groundwork already out of the way.

We will also be looking at ways to involve outside experts and stakeholders, as well as increase public participation in the reform process.

Senator Steinberg and I have been talking frequently about this, and I know he and his team are making similar headway in the Senate. I look forward to sharing our collective information and working together to help give Californians the government they deserve.”


Shorter Arnold: It’d Be A Lot Easier If This Were A Dictatorship… As Long As I’m The Dictator

This is simply an incredible performance by Der Governator, captured by Josh Richman:

The governor went on a bit of a tirade against dissent, first talking smack about U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger’s 2007 order reducing the operation of pumps in the Delta to protect the endangered Delta Smelt, then about a three-federal-judge panel’s moves toward ordering the release of certain inmates to reduce California’s chronic and unconstitutional prison overcrowding, and then about Clark Kelso, the receiver empowered by a federal judge to demand $8 billion from the state to correct unconstitutional, decades-long underfunding prison health care.

“It’s not productive for the state to have so many chefs in the kitchen,” the governor grumped. “Those are the kinds of things that make it very difficult.”

But his ire wasn’t just directed at the federal courts. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, he said, opposes him on fiscal policy at every turn, he said: “He’s running for Congress now, so that’s good.”

And he cited state Controller John Chiang’s and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s opposition to his plans to cut state salaries last year. “How does a coach win a basketball game when all of the players are running off in different directions?” Schwarzenegger asked.

Maybe that’s why he’s so hot for Proposition 1A, which would give the governor new authority to unilaterally reduce some spending for state operations and capital outlay and eliminate some cost-of-living increases, all without legislative approval – shoo, you pesky compromises; begone, consensus! Also, maybe he’s forgetting that these federal judges’ job is to hold California to its obligations under federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and that the Democratic statewide elected officials he’s knocking are with this state’s majority party while he’s in the minority.

Now you tell me that this Governor is a good-faith operator when he seeks to grab additional executive power without legislative oversight.  He’s an actor used to getting his way because he has the biggest trailer on the set.  And he has little use for those measly checks and balances.  It’s all so very American.  So why not just get rid of them?

Only problem for Mr. Whiny Ass Titty Baby, nobody in the state likes him and they consider him to be a terrible steward of government.  That’s why they’re rejecting his efforts to hamstring the state even further.

Campaign Update: CA-Sen, CA-Gov, CA-10

A few campaign items that will hopefully tickle your fancy this morning.

• CA-Sen: According to the San Jose Mercury News, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina is “seriously considering challenging” Barbara Boxer for the US Senate.  Yeah, that would be challenging, wouldn’t it?  What a fearsome figure she casts, as a failed corporate CEO who got a $25 million dollar golden parachute while laying off half her company!  Who was 20 points down to Boxer in the last poll!  “Corporate CEO who got giant bonus for bad work” doesn’t seem to me to be the profile of a political challenger anytime soon.

I’m still holding out the possibility that this is an April Fool’s Day joke.

• CA-Gov: When you are having major staff problems 14 months before the primary, I’d say your gubernatorial campaign is in trouble.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi is saying goodbye to his senior adviser today. And whether he likes it or not, he is saying hello to speculation his upstart gubernatorial bid is struggling.

Senior campaign adviser Jude Barry, who formerly managed the 2006 gubernatorial campaign of then-state controller Steve Westly, let his new boss know that he would resign to pursue other opportunities on March 31.

On his Facebook page, Barry thanked Garamendi but didn’t exactly offer an upbeat assessment of the campaign.

“I like John Garamendi and appreciate the opportunity to have worked with him and many other good people on his team, both on the campaign and in the lieutenant governor’s office,” he wrote. “But at this point, I’ve done all I can to help him. It doesn’t feel right to just hang around the campaign. I wish John and the campaign good luck.”

According to CalBuzz, Garamendi has yet to find campaign co-chairs or finance co-chairs, and we all know that winning statewide costs a ridiculous amount of money and essentially a two-year campaign, if not longer.  I’m toying with the idea that California ought to have a slate of regional gubernatorial primaries, to encourage retail campaigning and keep costs down in the near term, to allow a greater multiplicity of views.  Otherwise we will keep getting the same old hacks and rich people running for these seats.  The state is big enough so that it makes a decent amount of sense.

• CA-10: Mark DeSaulnier continues to marshal institutional support for his presumed run for Congress replacing Ellen Tauscher, earning the endorsement of Senate leader Darrell Steinberg.  Though he hasn’t formally announced, DeSaulnier announced plans to walk districts as early as this week.  That’s probably a good idea, because a new poll shows that nobody has a decent name ID in the district.

A poll commissioned by potential Democratic congressional candidate and former BART Director Dan Richard shows state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier in statistical dead heat with Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (15 and 13 percent respectively) and Richard trailing at 7 percent.

The poll showed DeSaulnier with a 19 percent favorable approval rating compared with a 9 percent unfavorable while 23 percent did not know. The remaining 49 percent said they had never heard of him. Ouch.

Buchanan received similar numbers: 16 percent favorable approval, 8 percent unfavorable, 29 percent didn’t know and 47 percent had never heard of her.

We just saw a special election in upstate New York where over 150,000 people voted.  This special election, like most in California, will be lucky to get half that many.  

Deeply Unpopular Legislature Stumps For Their Unpopular Budget

The latest poll numbers for the Governor and the legislature are pitiful, although clearly the electorate has hit Schwarzenegger more over the recent budget crisis.

Overall, just 33% of California adults give Schwarzenegger a positive job rating, barely above the record low of 32% that he hit in 2005 after pushing a package of failed ballot measures in a special election. As recently as January, Schwarzenegger’s favorable job rating was at 40%.

Faring worse is the state Legislature: Its 21% approval rating matches the record low it set in several previous polls.

There are a number of other questions in the poll regarding the right to choose and birth control, which you can see here (Short version: Californians still support the right to choose, though parental notification gets narrow support.  I would imagine that how the question is asked accounts for that, although this will probably give hope to the forces that have lost parental notification on the ballot three times in a row to try yet again).

What I want to focus on for the moment is those appalling numbers for our political leaders.  Given that, as well as the public tendency to vote down ballot initiatives, you’d think the last thing they’d want to do is put the public faces of lawmakers on the budget items in the May 19 special election.  You’d be wrong.

Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and ex-Senate leader Dave Cogdill will join hands today for the first campaign event before the upcoming budget special election.

The trio — alongside other advocates for the package — will host a press conference this afternoon at a Sacramento-area child development center.

Now, maybe Darrell Steinberg has some grand design where the limits in the spending cap part of the package can be overcome.  Or maybe he’s perfectly content with ratcheting down spending and making it impossible to revive it no matter what the economic situation.  Whatever the reason, it seems like terrible strategy as well as bad policy.

On the flip side, SEIU editorializes against the spending cap in Capitol Weekly:

One of the most troubling aspects of the budget deal to us is the budget cap, which promises to make the cuts permanent by making it virtually impossible to restore them in better times. For SEIU members that translates into year after year of higher caseloads for social workers who help children endangered by neglect or abuse; ongoing cuts to healthcare for families struggling with unemployment or low-wage work; a future of shrinking support for families who have children with autism or cerebral palsy; ongoing cuts to hundreds of state services from parks to oversight of hospitals and nursing homes, and ongoing cuts to home care, higher education, K-12 schools, and other vital public services.

We know that we are not alone in our concerns. In fact, Californians do not support the inevitable result of a budget cap – each of these cuts is deeply unpopular; yet legislators have already voted for the cap without a single hearing on the cap’s effects, without explaining its effects to their constituents, and without asking for detailed analysis from the Controller, the Treasurer, or independent outside experts.

This is not the way such a serious measure should have been considered or passed. It reflects poorly on the Legislature as a deliberative and transparent body.

With the Governor trying to get in on the Constitutional convention, and offering a vision of reform that trades majority vote for the spending cap, essentially one horrible outcome for another, it’s beyond clear that, if the spending cap passes, it will be locked in for a very long time no matter what other reforms are undertaken, and with a baseline spending level “established during one of the, if not the, worst budget crisis in the state’s history,” as the author writes.  This would cripple the state in a fundamental way.

Prop. 8: Polling, Analysis, Obama

So the latest poll on Prop. 8 has come out from the PPIC, showing the No side still ahead, albeit with a narrower lead than the last time PPIC was in the field.

A majority of Californians still oppose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, but the margin is narrowing so notably that the fate of Proposition 8 may hinge on the turnout for the presidential race.

A new poll released late Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California shows Prop. 8 losing 52 to 44 percent among likely voters. That eight-point margin has narrowed from the 14-point spread that PPIC polls found in August and September. Just 4 percent of likely voters remain undecided.

“The vote on Proposition 8 could get closer between now and the election, because we know that Californians are evenly divided in general on whether they favor or oppose gay marriage,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the PPIC.

There should be a Field Poll on this next week.  But I think it’ll confirm what we see here – a close race that either side can take.  The polling guru Nate Silver of 538 waded into this today.

Both the PPIC and SurveyUSA polls have Barack Obama leading by large (20+ point) margins, so I’m not sure that opponents of the measure can count on some sort of turnout surge above and beyond what is already reflected in the polls. There are evidently fair numbers of Obama/’Yes on 8′ tickets, especially among the state’s black and Latino populations.

On the one hand, there have been suggestions that there is something of ‘Bradley Effect’ on polling on gay marriage bans, and that such measures tend to overperform their polls, although a more recent analysis refutes this suggestion.

On the other hand, because ballot measures are confusing, it is usually better to be on the ‘No’ side of them … people tend to vote ‘no’ on things that they don’t understand. In this case, that gives an advantage to the marriage equality folks. (It may even be the case that some voters vote ‘no’, thinking that they’re voting no to gay marriage, when in fact the wording of the resolution is such that a ‘no’ vote protects gay marriage).

I’d peg the ‘no’ side as about a 55/45 favorite, but not more than that.

Sounds pretty accurate to me.  So what can turn the tide in this race at this late date?  Well, there are the human interest stories like this ex-mayor of Folsom coming out and opposing Prop. 8 in an emotional display.  I think putting a face on whose rights would be eliminated can be powerful.  There is also value in putting a spotlight on the extremism and basic indecency coming from the Yes side.

Standing there as the “Yes on 8” rally outside Oakland’s Foothill Missionary Baptist Church began to wind down today, I noticed a gentleman in the crowd approach an elderly woman who was holding a “Gay marriage = legal perversion” sign. I eavesdropped – hey, that’s my job – as he told her he agreed with her sign completely, but he urged her to ditch it and just use a “Yes on 8” sign instead because her homemade sign’s sentiment might turn off some voters.

They’re trying to hide their wingnuts, but they’re pretty ubiquitous.  And this story seems to me to be a good one to push, considering that one of the key arguments of the Yes side concerns classroom indoctrination.

A Salinas High School teacher who distributed “Yes on Proposition 8” literature to her students last week has been asked to refrain from doing so by administrators […]

The literature that was passed out to students says it is important to protect marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.

The one-page statement also says it is critical to vote yes on Proposition 8, saying its failure would eventually force the state to approve “polygamy, polymory, incest, group and other ‘creative’ arrangements for marriage.”

Think of the children!

But a more controversial idea, expressed by Andrew Sullivan, is that Barack Obama should get involved in this race.  Obama has already expressed his opposition to Prop. 8, but Sullivan argues that he should do more.

As expected, one reason Proposition 8, stripping gay couples of marriage equality, is still viable in California is because of strong African-American support. Black Californians back the anti-gay measure by a margin of 20 points, 58 – 38, in the SUSA poll. No other ethnic group comes close to the level of opposition and black turnout is likely to be very high next month.

All this makes it vital, in my opinion, that Barack Obama strongly and unequivocally oppose Proposition 8 in California, rather than keeping mainly quiet as he has done so far. We need him to make an ad opposing it.  This is a core test of whether gay Americans should back Obama as enthusiastically as they have in the last month. If he does not stand up for gay couples now, why should we believe he will when he is in office? And if black Americans are the critical bloc that helps kill civil rights for gays, that will not help deepen Obama’s governing coalition. It could tear it apart.

I think Sen. Obama is focused on winning a different election right now.  Still, even a small measure, like sending out a fundraising appeal to his California list, could speak volumes.  And as he’s already on the record, it’s not like the McCain campaign couldn’t already point to the issue if they so chose.

What do you think?