November 9, 2009

It's astounding to me, that California voters still remain so largely uninformed (or indifferent) about the root causes of the state's yearly fiscal crisis. Those who want to change things have an uphill battle:

Reporting from Sacramento - Backers of an overhaul of California's government, who hope to leverage disgust with Sacramento into support for changing how the state raises taxes and spends money, have a difficult path ahead, according to a new poll of California voters.

Major segments of the electorate see the state's problems as the product of unrestrained lawmakers driven by special interests to waste taxpayer money, and reject arguments that structural issues with the state's Constitution and government institutions are to blame.

Voters don't want the tax code overhauled in the ways that many fiscal experts promise would tamp down the wild revenue swings that have led to a constant state of budget crisis in California. They don't want the Constitution changed to allow a simple majority of lawmakers to push a budget onto the governor's desk, as most other large states allow. And they don't want the state to touch Proposition 13 property tax restrictions, even if residential property taxes would remain strictly limited.

The poll results come at a time when large numbers of Californians report significant economic stress as a result of the recession.

More than a third of those polled said they or a family member had lost a job in the last year. Nearly half said they or someone in their family had been hit with a cut in take-home pay, and 57% said their investments or those of family members had dropped by more than a quarter.

The recession's impact is particularly strong among blacks and Latinos, with 57% of Latinos and 41% of blacks in the survey saying they or someone in their family had lost a job as a result of the recession. Among Latinos, 21% reported a home foreclosure, a number more than twice the overall rate of those surveyed.

Nearly a quarter of those polled said they or someone in their family had lost healthcare coverage as a result of the recession. And 27% said they or someone in their family had put off or canceled a medical appointment or prescription in the last year because of the cost.

The findings come from a new Los Angeles Times/USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences poll. The survey of 1,500 registered voters from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3 was conducted by two nationally prominent polling agencies, the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies. The results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 2.6 percentage points.

The fact that the poll surveyed registered voters could have affected the findings regarding the recession. As compared with all adult Californians, those who are registered to vote are, on average, older, less Latino and better-situated financially.

In other words, this is the "I got mine, the hell with everyone else" crowd.

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