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TWEET DU JOUR: @johnmyers - "Excerpt from note sent tonight to Times employees from owner-to-be Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong."
Dr. Soon-Shiong, thank you for returning the Los Angeles Times to the City of Angels and the San Diego Union-Tribune to "America's Finest City." We're counting on you.
Whoa! What a day yesterday.
For Premium Subscribers, the following corrections have been made since the first draft you received at 9pm last night:
Otherwise, if you read the results last night, you can jump to my thoughts after "sleeping on it" for a few hours and spending time with the crosstabs. I've made clarifying edits and have a bit better grammar after some sleep, but the substance, with the above changes are the same.
United States Senate
Let's start by getting the "easy" polling out of the way. In the United States Senate seat, only two candidates have been polled:
Three polls came out today: one for the USC Rossier School of Education conducted by Tulchin Research, one for Gavin Newsom's campaign by David Binder Reseach and one by the Public Policy Institute of California. Here are the numbers, because that's what you want, along with numbers for two polls in November and December.
First, I respect the pollsters that conducted all of these polls, but there are variables that can provide different topline results and rely on the professional judgment in poll design and weighting of raw results. I'm still working through the PPIC crosstabs (the only ones I have for the three new polls) to have more insight. Of course, I would really need crosstabs for the other two released yesterday, which aren't available).
All three have Gavin Newsom (D) in the lead. Antonio Villaraigosa (D) is within the margin of error of Newsom in the PPIC poll, but 10 points behind in the internal poll for Newsom and the Rossier poll, which was done primarily on K-12 issues for the School of Education.
The polls are not good news for Republicans. I saw that my good friend Paul Mitchell tweeted yesterday that he's still betting on a Democrat vs. Republican general election on November 3 after seeing the two polls released earlier today. But, look at the combined number for the three major Republican candidates:
Add another 14 GOP candidates who have filed a Statement of Intent and/or opened a committee, and those numbers likely get spread out even more.
Undecideds range in the three polls from 18-29%. A Republican would need an overwhelming share of these voters to compete for top two.
Okay...now on to what people are talking about:
Of the five polls I've displayed we have three online and three live interview. Both have advantages and flaws.
Phone - live interview: The advantage of live interview is that a respondent is less likely to quit halfway through. The disadvantage is that you're connecting with a universe who answers their phone. When a random number shows up on your cell, do you answer it? That said, the demographic weighting should adjust for any skewing of who answers. However, far more calls have to made than in the past to secure a representative sample, dramatically increasing the costs of telephone polling and reducing its use.
Online: The advantage of online is that it is relatively cheap to obtain a representative sample. An additional one is that the pollster is not relying on the telephone interaction between a private contractor in a phone bank somewhere. And, some respondents may make better choices by visually seeing a list of candidates, as they would when casting a ballot. The disadvantage is that a respondent may just hit buttons for the sake of moving to the next question.
Registered vs. Likely Voters and Methodology
Pollsters will debate whether to try to identify likely voters. If a pollster does, they have two choices--buy a likely voter database from a data vendor who can provide a universe with a high level of certainty of voters in a mid-term election. This would include past voting behavior and, likely, newly registered voters. If someone is registering in December or January this cycle, they are likely engaged and likely to vote.
The other methodology for determining likely voters is to take the universe of registered voters polled, and weight them to model previous similar elections.
The volatility of an election environment makes either of these methods less reliable. I could get a panel together tomorrow of three very smart people on this topic, and they'd debate it as if it were last Saturday and the topic was Brady vs. Foles.
Ballot designations are allowable of up to three words, although the official name of a government entity can be used exceeding that limit. Thus, "Publisher of The Nooner" would be ineligible but "Trustee, The Nooner Community College District" would be allowable. Former offices are not allowed to be listed, and officials appointed to an elective office must include "Appointed" before the office name. Thus, Xavier Becerra will be "Appointed Attorney General."
The problem at this point in an election cycle is that poll respondents may not recognize a name as a former elected without a reminder. Eventually, a strong campaign will get that message out. When voters are completing a ballot for June 5, they will be thinking of "Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa," which can be used in advertising but not on the ballot, and not "businessman Antonio Villaraigosa" as used in the Rossier poll.
This is particularly true as more voters are vote by mail. They're not as rushed as they are in the polling place. They may be filling out their ballot while watching the local news, along with a bevy of campaign ads. In June 2014, 69.1% of the votes were cast by "mail-in" ballots. This year, that number is almost certain to go up as Calaveras, Inyo, Madera, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Shasta, Sierra, Sutter, and Tuolumne counties were given the authority by the Legislature to conduct all mail-in ballot elections this year. I don't know that all of these counties are pursuing it. I literally got a postcard yesterday informing me that it will be done in Sacramento County.
There's not a "right" answer on this issue, but it certainly affects polling results. For that reason, I've listed how each poll associated candidates. Some used a presumed allowable designation for Villaraigosa and Delaine Eastin and others used their most prominent former elective office.
Berkeley Institute of Government Studies
Before the gubernatorial question, the candidates were identified with the following associations in a favorability question. No ballot label was provided in asking for in the gubernatorial primary preference.
Travis Allen, State Assemblyman
Next year’s June primary election for governor will be an open primary, in which all candidates from all parties are listed together on one ballot. I’m going to read the names of some of the candidates. Please tell me who you would vote for if the election for governor were held today. (NAMES AND PARTIES READ IN RANDOM ORDER), If these were the candidates, who would you vote for?
David Binder Research for Gavin Newsom
Question not provided, but summary indicates the following ballot labels:
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Democrat
Tulchin Research for USC Rossier School of Education
If the primary election for Governor were held today, which candidate would you vote for? (ROTATE)
Public Policy Institute of California
How about Travis Allen, California state assemblyman?
As you may know, California now has a top-two primary system for statewide races in which voters can cast ballots for any candidate, regardless of party, and the two candidates receiving the most votes—regardless of party—will advance to the general election. If the June primary for governor were being held today, and these were the candidates, who would you vote for?
USC Dornsife/LA Times
If the primary election to select the candidates for California Governor were held today, would you vote for: (select any candidate from the list)
Next, we have favorability ratings, which really put the "top line" results in the polling for the governor's race in context. The same ballot labels listed about for the Public Policy Institute of California were used for this question.
Gas Tax: (without expenditure discussion)
In 2017, the California Legislature passed and Governor Brown signed into law an increase in the state’s gasoline tax. Do you favor or oppose repealing the recently passed increase in the state gas tax?
Separately, the following question was asked:
The governor’s proposed budget plan includes spending $4.6 billion from the recently passed gas tax and vehicle fees to repair roads, highways and bridges; improve commute corridors; and improve local rail and public transit systems. Overall, do you favor or oppose this proposal?
Prop 13/"Spit Roll" (without expenditure discussion)
Under Proposition 13, residential and commercial property taxes are both strictly limited. What do you think about having commercial properties taxed according to their current market value? Do you favor or oppose this proposal?
Sexual harassment/misconduct in the Legislature (registered voters)
How closely are you following news about sexual harassment and misconduct in the California state legislature — very closely, fairly closely, not too closely, or not at all closely? 18%
Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Democratic leaders in the state legislature are currently handling the issue of sexual harassment and misconduct in the California State Legislature?
Donald Trump Job Approval (registered voters)
US Congress Job Approval (registered voters)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) (registered voters)
Thinking about undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, do you favor or oppose the protections given by “DACA”—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—which includes protection from deportation and a work permit, if they pass a background check?
I'll offer my thoughts after the jump.
United States Senate: Dianne Feinstein is positioned for an easy re-election in November, although the inability of the Republican Party to field a candidate with name recognition, a good ballot label, or money likely means she will be joined by fellow Democrat Kevin de León. A flaw in the poll is that they used "California Senate President pro Tempore," which is questionably legal. Senator Toni Atkins takes the reins March 21, twelve days after the ballot designation for U.S. Senate must be filed.
The bigger issue for de León is found in the crosstabs. He has a net favorable of -1% (23%/24% fav/unfav) among Latino likely voters and 40% have never heard of him. Feinstein has a net favorable among the same voters of 28% (55%/27%), and 15% have never heard of her.
In the horse race, we start with Feinstein at 57% and de León at 17%. Among Latino voters, Feinstein captures 47% and de León has 29%. If we look at geography, obviously Feinstein does best in her home base of the Bay Area (58%), but her second best region is de León's base of Los Angeles (53%). de León only pulls 18% in Los Angeles. He's actually slightly higher in the Central Valley (20%), Inland Empire (20%), and Orange San Diego (21%).
Finally, the Senate race, Republicans have no clue what to do. Of the likely voters 65% said they "don't know" who their candidate was. Of course, they were only given the named choices of de León and Feinstein, and to specify one of the other candidates (3%), they needed to specify a name. Otherwise, they were moved to "don't know." Of course, I couldn't name one of the other candidates.
The biggest issue being debated ballot label. PPIC used "former Los Angeles mayor" for Villaraigosa and" former State Superintendent of Public Instruction" for Delaine Eastin, which as I discuss above, is not allowable on the ballot but will be hammered home in television advertising. I can't tell you what voters will be thinking as they fill out their ballots.
Villaraigosa is seen as the Democrat businessman in the race. Unlike the Senate race, there were three GOP candidates polled--Travis Allen, John Cox, and Doug Ose. Clearly, this leaves fewer "don't know" responses, but they still stand at 35% for both Republican and Democratic voters. That's where Villaraigosa is looking, with the big question being how many of these voters have come to terms with the overwhelmingly likelihood that the next governor will be a Democrat and they are ready to swallow a bitter pill and cast a vote for the Democrat deemed most palatable.
On whether experience in elective office or experience is more important, elective office (62%) is more important than business (32%) among likely voters polled.
Democrat state treasurer John Chiang is walking down the political middle of the Democratic pack, and is polling between 9%-11%. He embraces some of Newsom's more liberal positions while also being seen as a controller and treasurer who has seen California's budget come into balance with a healthy reserve.
Of course, respondents to the poll (registered voters) are consistently conflicted on these issues. They oppose the gas tax (47%-48%) while supporting Governor Brown's proposed expenditure of the proceeds (70%-26%). They believe the state's balance between revenues and expenditures is a big (43%) or somewhat (35%) of a problem, while 67% approve of the governor's proposed budget when both spending increases and the supplemental "rainy day" fund is described.
What about smokers and the rich? Can't we soak them some more? Cake and eat it too time . . .
That said, Chiang is in a unique position to make the state's strong budget health a major issue as state treasurer, even if it was the voters in Proposition 2 ("rainy day"), Proposition 30 ("temporary" taxes for education), and Thrifty Jerry.
For Delaine Eastin, it's a tough situation. We can debate where Newsom and Villaraigosa each stand because of inconsistent polls of different methodologies, but Eastin hasn't been able to break 5% in any of these polls with a steady 4-5%. She's the only woman in a field of major candidates that includes
Issues weren't tested in this month's PPIC poll and the last time the open-ended "most important" issue question was asked was in September 2017. In that poll, "education, schools, teachers" fell to seventh at 4%. Preceding that were jobs, economy (20%), immigration, illegal immigration (13%, which can include both sides), housing costs, availability, homelessness (12%), environment, pollution, global warming (6%), state budget, deficit, taxes (6%), water, drought (5%), crime, gangs, drugs (4%) . . . and then you get to education.
In March 2015, education was the third highest issue at 6%, behind only jobs, economy (24%) and water, drought (23%).
Ironically, the California is far stronger than it was in March 2015, when unemployment was 6.3%, compared to 4.3% in December 2017. In January 2015, 18,839,000 Californians were in the labor force, of which 17,567,300 had jobs. In December 2017, 19,386,300 were in the labor force and 18,547,600 had jobs. (all seasonally adjusted, source: EDD)
More people are in the workforce and unemployment is down significantly. I've been a budget geek since 1995. The budget is the healthiest I have seen in these 23 years. Sure, we had that boom in 2000, but we didn't make the long-term budget stability a priority and spent the funds like crazy, before having a very long hangover.
Still, even with the lowest unemployment rate since at least 1986 (December 2000 was the lowest during that period at 4.7%) and arguably the healthiest budget in that period as well. Sure, the state has long-term pension and retiree healthy liabilities, but at least it has taken some action and continues to talk about the issue. That's not an easy one, as the valuation of our pension funds have likely changed by billions--up and down--over the last four trading sessions. As I write, the Dow is down 530 (2.1%) and our pension funds are likely are down significantly as well.
The issue that we see with answer of the biggest issue as "jobs and the economy" is wages and housing. Wages are up nationally as we saw earlier this month, leading to the 8.5% drop in the Dow. We won't know California's January number yet as state-level data isn't scheduled to be released until March 9, but there is no reason to believe wages will be anything but up.
However, wages haven't kept pace with housing costs. That's where the angst lies. Even if the unemployment rate is low and in some industries employers are scrambling to hire qualified people, Californians are fearful of their next layoff and whether they will be able to afford to stay in their home, mortgaged or rented. Too many people were burned in 2008 thereafter, and ten years later, that angst is still dominating politics.
That was a long way to say why California's likely voters aren't prioritizing education this cycle. And, as longtime readers know, I've spent most of my career as an education advocate. Advocates argue that schools are woefully underfunded compared to other states, which is partially true, but there has been a significant increase in funding for K-12 and community colleges in particular and more is proposed, and funding is far more flexible than it was just five years ago.
As I mentioned earlier, "immigration/illegal immigration" was the second largest issue in the September 2017 PPIC poll. So, let's talk about the findings about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in this month's poll.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
The problem is that the open-ended question on top issues is that it doesn't tell you the position expressed by the respondent. Interviewers have to fit an answer in a general category. Thus, "illegal immigrants" and "DACA" end up in the same boat. But, with this poll, we get an answer to a straightforward question:
"Thinking about undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, do you favor or oppose the protections given by “DACA”—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—which includes protection from deportation and a work permit, if they pass a background check?"
Now it doesn't have other questions that we all want to know by the news we read every day and which has our federal government on the brink of shutdown (which I don't think will happen) nine hours hence, such as whether DACA should be tied to a "wall," but one can't deny how strongly registered voters feel about this.
There aren't many issues on which you'll find 86% of Californians in support. That's above Social Security in popularity.
Support for a DACA fix is across-the-board, with Democrats (95%), Republicans (58%), and independents (78%) in support. Registered voters in all regions favor it, ranging from 75% in the Central Valley to 86% in the SF Bay Area. Every demographic group is above 70%.
While the poll is just on DACA, I would bet that it would extend further as the national conversation has occurred. Caution to candidates at all levels--this is not 1994. The coming out of the shadows of DACA-eligible immigrants has also revealed many other undocumented Californians that people know in their neighborhoods and the places they shop, eat, and play.
Playing to the right on immigration in California might get you to 10% in a three-way statewide primary, but it's certainly not a path to victory in November or to staunch the bleeding of the California Republican Party. I will note that a strong majority of Republicans polled (78%) oppose letting state and local governments block enforcement of federal law as "sanctuaries."
This year's governor's race is really about insecury about wages and housing.
I will likely have more thoughts on the polling tomorrow, particularly after my email box fills up this afternoon. More after the jump . . .
GOV: For the Times, Seema Mehta reports that GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox plans to add $1 million to the $3 million he's already given to his campaign.
In the 2018 race, Cox entered the new year with nearly $2 million cash on hand, according to financial disclosures filed with the state.
That figure put him far ahead of GOP rival Travis Allen, an assemblyman from Huntington Beach who entered 2018 more than $200,000 in debt. The other top Republican in the race, former Rep. Doug Ose, won’t have to disclose finances until the spring because he entered the contest last month.
SINGLE-PAYER: Melanie Mason reports for the Times on the continued strategic divide among universal health care advocates about how to achieve their goal.
Anthony Wright, executive director of the consumer group Health Access, noted SB 562 would require the federal government’s approval to repurpose Medicare and Medi-Cal funds, a prospect he described as unlikely under the Trump administration.
“We want to continue to advocate, to organize and develop the goal of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all type system,” Wright said. “We should take steps in the meantime that do not require federal approval.”
Wright laid out a number of priorities he said should be pursued in the short term, including expanding Medi-Cal to cover adults who are in the country illegally and providing more subsidy assistance to make purchasing insurance on the Covered California exchange more affordable.
But Don Nielsen, political director for the nurses group, disagreed with the slower pace endorsed by the other witnesses.
“Doing it the way they want to — an incrementalist approach — is really not an effective way to go,” Nieslen said. “It potentially derails the momentum for doing single payer. [And] the approaches they’re talking about keeps insurance companies in the picture.”
DON'T DRILL, BABY, DON'T DRILL: California is stepping up against the Trump Administration in its proposal to expand oil drilling off the Golden State's coast, reports Angela Hart in the Bee.
The one and only public hearing on the Trump administration’s proposal to allow new oil drilling in federal waters off California’s coast is set for today in Sacramento.
Yet California leaders say they’ll block any future plans to allow new offshore oil and gas leases, asserting in a letter from the State Lands Commission sent Wednesday to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that new ocean drilling would harm air quality, inhibit the state’s shift to clean energy and threaten future oil spills.
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