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Survey Finds Support for Govís November Ballot Measure

USC Dornsife Online Survey Experiment Tests Accuracy of New Approach to Political Polling

April 19, 2012

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences announced last Thursday the results of its new experiment in online political polling, which many polling professionals expect may overtake and replace telephone polling as the industry standard.  The online survey also found a high level of public support for Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed November ballot measure that would generate new funding for education and public safety.

"We are extremely proud that the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times phone poll was the most accurate in California during the last election cycle, and we intend to match that accomplishment this year," said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. "This online experiment is designed to complement our existing phone poll and to help us understand the way California voters are thinking in even more detail. The online survey gives us the ability to ask more questions than a phone poll, to explore the opinions of specific voter groups in greater detail, and to provide more information to our respondents before they offer their opinions on key issues."

"We look forward to using this online experiment as a valuable supplement to the respected USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times phone survey, and we hope that the people of California find it to be a valuable resource as well," Schnur said.

The USC Dornsife online survey experiment — a distinct project from the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll — interviewed 1,874 registered voters from March 19-21, 2012. The online survey provided an opportunity to examine the benefits of online polling and to ask even more in-depth questions on a range of political and public policy issues including health care and contraception, ballot initiatives and tax increases, and technology companies and online piracy.

"Just as survey research in the 1970s was all by mail and eventually moved to phones, we are at a similar pivot point in the transition from phone to online polling," said Ben Tulchin, founder and president of Tulchin Research. "This is the research methodology of the future, and we are working to accelerate the curve and make online research the standard for today."

On issues including likely California ballot initiatives that would seek to raise taxes, results from the online survey experiment and the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll were outside the margin of error.

“It was very encouraging to see that the approval numbers in the online survey are basically dead on with the phone,” said Chris Condon of M4 Strategies. “But one of the major benefits of the online survey is that respondents read the initiatives, which is how they will see it on the actual ballot. On the phone, the option of “both” is hidden, and it forces people to make a choice if they don’t know better.”

Voters Support Ballot Initiative to Raise Sales and Income Tax

On November ballot initiatives, a large majority of voters support a proposal backed by Governor Jerry Brown to increase sales tax by one-quarter of a cent and income tax on people earning more than $250,000, according to the USC Dornsife online survey experiment.

Sixty-three percent of voters on the online survey (compared to 64 percent in the phone poll) support Brown’s proposal to close California’s budget deficit and protect public education. Thirty percent of voters on the online survey (compared to 33 percent on the phone poll) oppose Brown’s plan.

The USC Dornsife online survey experiment also polled voters using the official title and summary of the proposal backed by Brown:

Support for likely CA November ballot initiative


USC Dornsife online survey

USC Dornsife/LATimes Poll

Gov. Brown's proposal based on description

Support: 63 percent
Oppose: 30 percent

Support: 64 percent
Oppose: 33 percent

Gov. Brown's proposal based on official title and summary

Support: 60 percent
Oppose: 30 percent


Molly Munger's plan based on description

Support: 24 percent
Oppose: 67 percent

Support: 32 percent
Oppose: 64 percent

In addition, voters were asked whether the support or opposition of certain individuals or groups would influence their decision on tax proposals. About 42 percent said Brown would influence their decision, including 11 percent who said it would influence them "a great deal." Forty-four percent said Brown's opinion would not influence their vote.

As for other groups, 56 percent of voters said the opinions of small business owners would influence their vote on tax proposals, 47 percent said local business owners would have influence, and 31 percent said the California Chamber of Commerce would hold sway. Forty-five percent said the California Teacher's Association would influence their vote, and 48 percent said the opinions of teachers would influence team.

About 34 percent said unions would influence their decision on the ballot propositions to raise taxes, and 38 percent said public employees would hold sway. Thirty-three percent said the opinion of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Association would influence their vote on tax initiatives.

The USC Dornsife online survey experiment interviewed 1,874 registered voters in California from March 19-21, 2012. The full sample carries a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percent.

Source:  USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences