Los Angeles Times
October 20, 2004
LA Times Poll :
A decade after passing strict sentencing rules, most voters want changes. They also support a stem cell research measure, one of 16 on the ballot.
By Megan Garvey
Times Staff Writer
Two weeks before election day, a ballot measure to substantially roll back the state's three-strikes sentencing law is leading by almost 3 to 1 among likely voters, while some other high-profile measures remain locked in close contests, according to a new Times poll.
Enough California voters remain undecided on several health-related measures to sway the outcome in either direction — making the final days crucial for opposing sides.
A proposal to sell $3 billion in state bonds to pay for embryonic stem cell research appeared ahead, with a slight majority planning to vote for it. Also leading was a ballot referendum that would require many companies to provide health insurance to their workers, although a quarter of likely voters were still undecided. A proposal to tax millionaires to pay for mental health services is also leading.
The Times Poll, supervised by polling director Susan Pinkus, interviewed 1,345 registered voters, of whom 925 were considered likely to vote in November. It was conducted statewide Oct. 14 to 18. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The proposal to provide $3 billion for embryonic stem cell research through the sale of state bonds was the poll's one exception to the low voter awareness of the ballot measures.
Backers of the initiative have run statewide television commercials for weeks, using a war chest of more than $22 million. The campaign appears to have gotten through to voters. Nearly seven in 10 now say they know how they would vote without having to hear the ballot language, up from 42% a month ago.
Proposition 71 was ahead by a 53% to 34% margin, with 13% undecided, nearly identical to the support of voters a month ago when The Times asked about the measure.
Compared with the poll a month ago, the percentage of people who did not need to hear details before saying they planned to vote for the measure rose from 30% to 49%. Those opposed who knew how they would vote without hearing details also rose from 11% last month to 20%.
The poll was completed before Monday's endorsement of the initiative by Schwarzenegger. Supporters of the measure hope the governor's backing will sway voters concerned about the measure's cost, an estimated $6 billion over the 30-year course of the bond.
The poll provides some indication that the financial argument has held back support for the measure: Those surveyed favored expanding embryonic stem cell research in general by much higher margins — 74% to 19%.
In addition to the cost arguments, the measure is opposed by groups that object on moral grounds to using embryos for research. The opposition has been far outpaced in fundraising, reporting about $200,000 to proponents' more than $22 million, and has aired no television commercials.
Q. How would you vote for the following Proposition[s] if the November general election were being held today:
Proposition 71: 'The Stem Cell Research, Funding, Bonds Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute'
Vote for 53%
Vote against 34%
Don't know 13%
How the poll was conducted
The Los Angeles Times Poll contacted 1,694 California adults by telephone
October 14 through 18, 2004. That includes 1,345 registered voters and,
among them, 925 that were deemed most likely to vote in the November
election. Respondents' intention to vote, the certainty of their vote,
their interest in the campaign, whether they will be a first time voter
and their past voting history were used to determine their probability
of voting. Telephone numbers for the overall sample were chosen from
a list of all exchanges in the state. Random digit dialing techniques
were used so that listed and unlisted numbers were contacted. The sample
of all California adults was weighted slightly to conform with census
figures for sex, race, age, education and party registration figures
from the secretary of state's office. The margin of sampling error for
all registered voters and likely voters is plus or minus 3 percentage
points. For certain subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher.
Poll results can also be affected by factors such as question wording
and the order in which questions are presented. Interviews were conducted
in English and Spanish.