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Reports & Research

March 17, 2011

Field Poll Finds Voters Support Extending State Taxes, Oppose Further Cuts to K-12 Education

A statewide survey undertaken collaboratively by the University of California, Berkeley and The Field Poll highlights some revealing findings about how registered voters would prefer dealing with the state’s unprecedented $25 billion budget deficit.

Among the findings were the following:

  1. There is no great willingness on the part of voters to increase taxes as a way of dealing with the huge budget deficit. However, majorities do support the idea of extending the temporary tax increases enacted by the state several years ago.
  2. A 61% majority prefer calling a special election to allow voters to decide on these issues rather than leaving it to the legislature to act.
  3. If a special election is called, by a 58% to 39% margin, voters endorse the governor’s proposal to extend for five more years the one-cent increase in the state sales tax, the ½ percent increase in vehicle license fees and the ¼ percent increase in personal income taxes that the state enacted in 2009.
  4. Pluralities of voters do not support the idea of transferring to the state’s general fund dedicated taxes approved by voters in previous elections as a way of mitigating the budget shortfall. These relate to approximately $1 billion in taxes collected under Prop.10 in the 1998 election now devoted to early childhood development programs and about $861 million collected under Prop. 63 from the 2004 election that go to mental health services.
  5. While a majority of voters (52%) prefer eliminating the state budget deficit through a roughly equal mix of spending cuts and increases in tax revenues, voters have a hard time identifying which specific state program areas they would be willing to cut. When asked about fourteen areas of state spending, a majority goes along with cutbacks in just two areas to help reduce the deficit -- spending for the courts/state judiciary and state prisons and correctional facilities.
  6. Small pluralities oppose cuts in six other spending areas – environmental regulations, state road building and repair, state parks and recreational facilities, public transportation, public assistance to low-income families with dependent children, and water storage and supply facilities.
  7. There is much greater opposition, ranging from 61% to 74%, to cut six major spending areas – the K-12 public schools, law enforcement and police, health care programs for low income and disabled Californians, higher education including public universities, colleges and community colleges, spending for child care, and mental health services.

These findings are based on telephone interviews with 898 registered voters conducted in English and Spanish February 28-March 14. In addition to UC Berkeley, The Field Poll also received funding and support from the California HealthCare Foundation to permit the survey to examine voter priorities in relation to how cutbacks to health programs compare to cutbacks in other state program areas.

Source:  The Field Poll