USC DORNSIFE / TIMES POLL
But skepticism about how lawmakers would use the money could derail the governor’s plan, and winning over independents is key, poll finds.

By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
May 30, 2012

SACRAMENTO — California voters continue to back Gov. Jerry Brown in his call for higher taxes, but distrust of state government could erode that support, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

About half of those surveyed said they approved of Brown’s job performance — a finding virtually unchanged from three months ago, before he announced that the projected budget deficit had leapt from $9.2 billion to $16 billion. Brown wants voters to pass a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax and raise levies on individual incomes of more than $250,000 by 1 to 3 percentage points, or about 11% to 32%.

But some of those inclined to support increased taxes are reluctant to trust state leaders with more money.

When told of the growing deficit and the governor’s plan to plug it with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, 59% of respondents said they would support the tax hikes. Just 36% said they would vote against the proposal if it is on the ballot this fall as Brown hopes.

However, when voters heard arguments against the plan — namely, the suggestion that Sacramento could waste any new money it received from higher taxes rather than spend it on such services as schools and public safety — only 50% said they would vote for it. And 42% would oppose it.

“Very quickly, the intensity changes as people are presented with more information,” said Linda DiVall of the Republican polling firm American Viewpoint, which conducted the survey in conjunction with the Democratic company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

The proposal’s passage, which would require a simple majority, would depend in large part on Brown’s ability to win independent voters — those not registered with any political party, who make up about 21% of the state’s electorate. They were the most likely to turn against the governor’s measure when an argument was made against it.

Before the critique, independents supported the measure 58% to 38%. Afterward, just 43% of those respondents said they would vote yes and 47% said they would vote no.

One of those people is Margrit Drexelius, a 52-year-old independent voter from Santa Clarita. She said she recognizes why Brown is asking people to pay more in taxes but doubts lawmakers would spend the money wisely.

“I understand the money has to come from somewhere,” she said. “But I don’t think they know how to use people’s money. Frankly, I think that all politicians are doing a crappy job.”

The governor should be concerned about that, said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“Winning every registered Democrat in this state still doesn’t get you across the finish line,” said Schnur. “He needs to win the independents to pull this off.” Brown has more work to do with voters, Schnur said.

“He’s convinced them that public schools and public safety need more money, but … if the governor were able to do something like pass pension reform before the election, it could help him in his efforts to show voters Sacramento can be more fiscally responsible.”

To read entire story, click here.