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Voter Survey

Student Survey Assesses Support for State Budget Process

UC Riverside undergraduates find that California voters favor the initiative process and two-thirds requirement for deciding budgets, but oppose teacher layoffs.

(May 29, 2009)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – California voters favor retaining the two-thirds supermajority requirement for passing budgets and using the initiative process to decide budget matters, a May survey by political science students at the University of California, Riverside has found.

Voters oppose laying off teachers to solve the budget crisis, however, and blame the Legislature more than Gov. Schwarzenegger for the current deficit, according to the survey.

“The survey is a general assessment of the political climate of California based on fiscal issues,” said David Crow, associate director of UCR’s Survey Research Center. “It also gave our students a chance to study survey research methods through experiential learning.”

Undergraduate students in the political science class, “Mass Media and Public Opinion,” interviewed a sample of registered California voters between May 11 and May 24. There were 276 respondents, with a margin of error of /-5.9% at a confidence level of 95 percent. Despite the relatively low number of respondents, the differences reported are so great that they remain statistically significant, said Crow, who teaches the class. The course covers all aspects of survey design, including sample selection, questionnaire development, data collection, data analysis, and statistical hypothesis testing.

Survey results will be available on the Web site of UCR's Survey Research Center,

Among the survey’s findings:

Voters favor a two-thirds vote to pass the state budget.
In spite of legislative gridlock over this year’s budget, California voters overwhelmingly favor retaining the two-thirds supermajority requirement for passing budgets. 56.9 percent of registered California voters favored the two-thirds requirement, 23.9 percent favored lowering the threshold to a simple majority, and 15 percent gave another answer or did not know. Survey respondents with a college education favored keeping the two-thirds supermajority requirement more than did their less-educated counterparts (94 percent compared to 77 percent).

Voters favor propositions to decide budget matters.
Registered California voters overwhelmingly favor retaining the right to decide on budget matters via the citizen initiative process by more than a 2-to-1 margin. 58.3 percent said they feel people should be allowed to vote on propositions concerning budget matters, as opposed to 26.4 percent who felt budgeting should be left exclusively to the Legislature. The remainder did not know or gave another answer to the question. Of the 93 Republicans who answered the question substantively, 76 percent said they favored using citizen initiatives for budgeting, compared to just 62 percent of the 103 self-identified Democrats who answered the question. Fewer highly educated voters (60 percent) supported citizen initiatives than did less-educated voters (79 percent).

Legislature blamed for budget deficit.
Of California registered voters, 43.5 percent blame the Legislature more for the budget deficit, 41.7 percent blame the Legislature and the governor equally, and just 5.8 percent say the governor is more at fault. 9 percent did not know or gave another answer. Voters also apportioned blame across the predictable fault line of party preference, Crow said. Of registered Democrats, 33.9 percent blamed the Democratic-controlled Legislature for the deficit (compared to 57.7 percent of registered Republicans), whereas 47 percent divided blame equally between the Legislature and the governor (compared to 35.6 percent of Republicans).

Though voters give low marks to both Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislators, they approve of the job the governor is doing more than they do the Legislature. On a scale of 1 to 10, Gov. Schwarzenegger garnered a 4.1 approval rating, compared to 2.9 for the Legislature. Though Democrats gave the Legislature higher marks (3.4 approval on a 1-to-10 scale) than Republicans (2.2 average approval), there were no significant differences between adherents of the two parties in evaluating the governor's performance.

Californians oppose teacher layoffs.
Half of the survey respondents (50.7 percent) believed that teacher layoffs should be avoided to solve the budget crisis by making cuts elsewhere, and 35.1 percent said layoffs were unfortunate but necessary. 14.1 percent did not know or gave another answer. Support for teachers crossed party, income, education, and gender lines, with Democrats and Republicans, high-income and low-income, highly educated and lesser-educated, and men and women evidencing equal levels of support for teachers.

“In spite of the tough times in California, voters remain committed to these state institutions – notably direct citizen involvement in the state budget decision-making and the legislative supermajority for passing the state budgets,” said Martin Johnson, faculty director of the UCR Survey Research Center and associate professor of political science.

The UCR Survey Research Center is part of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. The center conducts applied and theory-driven research. It maintains a state-of-the-art Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing facility for telephone and Internet-based survey research. The center also recently worked with students in “Methods of Sociological Inquiry” taught by Vanesa Estrada, assistant professor of sociology, to conduct a telephone survey of Riverside County residents about local policy issues.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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