Field released their poll on reforming the state government today
|Fundamental Change to Constitution|
|Vote as a Package|
|Would You Serve As Delegate|
|Structural Reforms Only|
|Illegal Immigration On Table|
|Parsky Commission Flatter Tax|
|Parsky Commission Net Receipts Tax|
|Majority Vote Budget|
|Majority Vote Revenue|
|Const. Amendments by Initiative Supermajority|
|Waste and Fraud Delusions|
|Term limits help|
, and boy, is there some crazy data in there. There are a lot of Californians who are big Dire Straits fans. You know, that’s the way you do it, your money for nothing…
I’ve shortened up the questions for this poll in the table here, and some may have gotten a little confusing, but most is fairly self-explanatory.
The state wants some sort of big change, it just doesn’t really know how it wants, what it wants, or why it wants it. But, it just wants to start all over again.
Except keeping Prop 13 apparently. The split roll and the majority vote for revenue faired very poorly, but what can you expect? The question was basically, would you like consensus to raise taxes. Well, sure, and I like apple pie too. But when one party refuses logic, what then?
The problem with a poll like this is that these concepts are very loose in voters minds. They are almost completely defined by the question that is asked by the pollster. For an example of that, on the Parsky Commission Flat tax question, it was asked two different ways, and the answers changed by nearly ten points.
Finally, “waste and fraud delusion” in the chart refers to a question that asks respondents about waste and fraud. This makes me both sad and increases the chances that my head will explode by a factor of 10.
By a 57% to 37% margin voters believe the state can provide about the same level of services by simply eliminating waste and inefficiencies, even if its budget had to be cut by billions of dollars.
Not only is this so astronomically off the mark as to be laughable, it shows that the Republicans have destroyed us at messaging. They have made “public employee” into a synonym for all that is evil and wasteful. Despite the fact that our state employees work in some very demanding positions, the conservative movement has repeated over and over again how the government is just stealing. And now the state believes it.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, California believes that it is “waste” that is bankrupting the state. Despite the fact that the Republicans couldn’t come up with anything near even a billion dollars of identifiable waste. Despite the fact that the Republican budget slashed services, cut to the very core of what Californians have requested, nay demanded, since the days of Pat Brown.
Californians want their yummy chocolate cake, but they also want to eat the tasty carrot cake on the shelf. The key is that we can’t give up, and give in to this. We must continue to fight for changes that will make the state productive once again.
But I refer back to the problem with a poll like this: the questions define the answers. The poll on this last question sounds like something you’d hear on Fox and Friends:
The state government has been facing large budget deficits over the past several years. Some people believe that by simply eliminating waste and inefficiencies our state government can provide roughly the same level of services that it currently does, even if its budget has to be cut by 20-25 billion dollars. Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat or disagree strongly with this view?
Really? Some people believe? Care to name one of them that doesn’t have a financial or electoral stake in that fact gaining traction? And even given that standard, you would be hard pressed to find anybody that really pays attention to the state government who thinks you can cut $20 billion from a budget that is now well below $100 billion and expect no service cuts. I would love to chit-chat with that person.
In the end, polling for these kinds of nebulous question goes only so far, no matter how good the pollster. This is the problem with all of this direct democracy, it allows one person or another to put their finger on the scale, whether in the form of the AG’s description or the pollster’s question.
We elect representatives to think about these issues for us, to come up with good answers. Yet we have consistenly knee-capped them over the last 30 years. Californians want big change, they just don’t want to change.
Incidentally, if you’d like to see some different questions get asked, you could look to George Lakoff. Some progressive activists are seeking money to fund a poll. They’ve raised $10,000 and are looking for another $25,000. You can help by giving on ActBlue.
UPDATE by Robert: This morning Brian beat me to the Field Poll post. What I was going to say is: It’s easy for Californians to say they want change, just as it turned out be fairly easy for the American people to say they wanted change by electing Obama last fall. As we’re seeing in Washington D.C., actually implementing change is the hard part. Are people – and legislators – really willing to give up long-held assumptions, beliefs, and ways of doing business, without which change cannot happen?
We’re witnessing the same thing here in California. Voters want change, but they are wary of the details, and are not yet abandoning old ideologies. That’s not to say they’ll refuse to do so – instead, in the absence of a clearly articulated and defined alternative vision for California, polls show that voters are not automatically going to give up on the 1978 model of California governance, even though its failure is obvious to all.
I agree with Brian that we’ve been getting “destroyed” at messaging. Even now, progressive and Democratic organizations still do not want to accept the importance of doing the basic work of creating and actively, consistently, and coherently pushing progressive frames. The consultantocracy still believes in playing for the near-term narrow victory, and has no confidence in their ability to produce fundamental changes in voter thought or voter behavior.
These poll numbers do show that Californians want change. And they are a starting point for how we can produce it. The numbers on Prop 13 are a baseline, not a sign that we should stay away from the topic. And the numbers on the Parsky Commission proposals show that voters do want progressive solutions. It’s time we offered them.