An early-voting survey of the ballot propositions

A voter drops off his ballot. (Image: vepar5, via Shutterstock)

Capitol Weekly’s tracking poll of by-mail voters has been running since Oct. 13 and reflects the ballooning numbers of early returns. This electorate, as reported in a recent CA120 article, overwhelmingly leans Democratic, with a significant number of likely Republican voters still expected to turn out on Election Day.

As a result, the findings on ballot measures explored in this initial report skew to the left.  For experienced poll watchers, this is the opposite of the early exit polling that often skews Republican.

The full crosstabs of the survey portions being released can be downloaded and accessed here. These include favorable/unfavorable ratings for many of the state’s top political leaders, additional questions on what methods voters are using to learn about elections and the top voting issues this election cycle. In the race for president,  Joe Biden appears to be headed for a historically large win.

These crosstabs also include two sets of weighting. One is for the demographics of the voters who have already voted, while the other reflects what Political Data describes as its Likely Voter Universe.

This polling of the state’s 12 ballot measures shows that there are significant numbers of voters who either stated that they don’t remember how they voted on each ballot measure, or that they skipped it.  This was greatest for Propositions 19 and 20, which had 36% and 41%, respectively.

This apparent oddity – voters who seem to have almost immediately forgotten how they voted — may be because many people voted almost immediately after receiving their ballots and, over time, simply forgot the details. In some cases, they voted before they received their sample ballots. It is likely that this will contribute to higher ballot dropoff for these measures, especially the more technical or confusing ones.

By removing the “don’t remember” and “skipped,” we can better analyze the findings of the poll. But we also know that these results could be skewed a bit toward the “yes” side.

So with those important caveats, the leading finding is that among voters who have cast ballots, only two measures are losing by a wide margin: Proposition 20, which deals with criminal sentencing, and Proposition 23, regarding dialysis clinics. Each is losing by wide, double-digit margins.

Two other measures are losing by single digits.

Proposition 19, which would allow homeowners to transfer tax assessments, is losing by two points. There is a strong no vote here by Republicans which, when looking at a potential Likely Voter Universe, increases the margin to a six-point loss. Proposition 21, the rent control measure, also appears to be losing by a six-point margin.

Some propositions appear to be closely teetering.

Proposition 16, which would restore affirmative action, is leading by seven points in the survey, although that edge is cut in half when looking at a Likely Voter Universe.  Other public polling has this measure falling further behind.

Proposition 22, rewriting independent contractor laws for app-based drivers, is currently ahead by just four points. Proposition 24, on consumer protection, is ahead by nine points but, again, that edge gets slashed in half when weighted with the Likely Voter Universe.

Polling from Returned Ballots

Yes No
 Proposition 14 – Issues $5. 5 billion in bonds for state stem cell research institute. 58% 42%
 Proposition 15 – Requires commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on market value and dedicates revenue. 60% 40%
 Proposition 16 – Repeals Proposition 209 of 1996, which said the state cannot discriminate or grant preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, education, or contracting. 53% 47%
 Proposition 17 – Restores the right to vote to people convicted of felonies who are on parole. 69% 31%
 Proposition 18 – Allows 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primaries and special elections 59% 41%
 Proposition 19 – Changes tax assessment transfers and inheritance rules. 49% 51%
 Proposition 20 – Makes changes to policies related to criminal sentencing charges, prison release, and DNA collection. 43% 57%
 Proposition 21 – Expands local governments’ power to use rent control. 47% 53%
 Proposition 22 – Considers app-based drivers to be independent contractors and enacts several labor policies related to app-based companies. 52% 48%
 Proposition 23 – Requires physician on-site at dialysis clinics and consent from the state for a clinic to close. 37% 63%
 Proposition 24 – Expands the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act, the CCPA, and creates the California Privacy Protection Agency to implement and enforce the CCPA. 54% 46%
 Proposition 25 – A referendum asking voters if they want to keep California’s  current cashless bail law. 60% 40%

One of the most interesting findings comes from digging into the voter intent behind votes for Propositions 21 (rent control) and Proposition 22 (app-based drivers).  In each case there is significant advertising in which both sides appear to be selling similar messages.

For Proposition 21, advocates speak about housing affordability, while opponents push a message about availability of affordable housing. For the App-based driver measure, both sides appear to be running ads saying that they, not their opponents, are doing more to help drivers.

The testing of these measures finds some disconnect caused by the dueling messages.

On Proposition 21 – the rent control measure, how would you characterize your vote? Prop 21 Vote
Yes No
Supporting Landlords 2% 43%
Supporting Renters 94% 36%
Don’t Know 4% 20%

This finding shows how those who voted for Proposition 21 were clearly interested in supporting renters.  However, the No side has also done a good job convincing a number of voters that a No vote is in the best interest of renters – potentially using messages about housing availability that could suffer if the measure were to pass.

On Proposition 22 – the app-based employment measure, how would you characterize your vote? Prop 22 Vote
Yes No
Ensuring these businesses, like Uber / Lyft and DoorDash can continue. 53% 13%
Ensuring Uber / Lyft and DoorDash employees can earn livable wages 40% 78%
Don’t Know 7% 9%

Here we see that voters who are interested in the company perspective, ensuring the continued availability of these services, are strongly supporting the measure, but also that 40% of those who identify with the driver perspective also sided with the Yes side.

The survey is continuing and in future Capitol Weekly polling we will release more results in the coming days leading up to Election Day.

John Howard is the editor of Capitol Weekly.

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