Hoover Golden State Poll: Voters Know What Road To Take On Infrastructure, May Reconsider Proposition 13, But Not Trump

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Hoover Institution, Washington DC

As Californians prepare for a summer on the go and state lawmakers go forth with the proceeds from an increased gas tax, a new poll by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University shows what roads voters want to take on infrastructure repairs.

Hoover’s Golden State Poll, administered by the survey research firm YouGov, asked Californians to choose from a dozen infrastructure investments and tell us which ones they would be willing to see their taxes go up to pay for.

Most popular: better roads and freeways (59%); repair and maintenance of dams and reservoirs (56%); bridge repair (53%) and building new water storage and transportation (52%). All received majority support from Democrats and independent voters and across economic lines.

Least popular: electric vehicle charging stations (26%) and port facility modernization (23%).

“As lawmakers divvy up the windfall from the gas tax they’d be wise to listen to what voters are saying – namely, they want roads they can access and water on tap,” said Hoover research fellow Bill Whalen. “Tempting as it might be to go in other direction elsewhere with infrastructure, it’s waterways and highways that are kings of the road in California.”

Conducted April 28 – May 4, 2017, the survey’s sample is 1700 adult (age 18+) Californians. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.75 percent for the full weighted sample. The full results of the survey are available here.

The survey also delved into Californians’ attitudes toward their own financial well-being, their willing to revisit the state’s fabled Proposition 13, plus their confidence in Donald Trump’s presidency.

On President Trump, the state that decisively rejected him last fall offers a dour forecast. Only 35% of Californians believe his presidency will be successful (82% Republicans, 12% Democrats, 36% independents), while 54% see Trump as ultimately unsuccessful (80% Democrats, 9% Republicans, 46% independents).

The numbers worsened when voters were asked their confidence in Trump’s ability to improve California’s economy: only 29% were “confident” while 60% felt “uneasy”.

On Proposition 13, which is approaching the 40th anniversary of its voter passage, Californians seem open to revisiting the controversial ballot initiative that placed a cap on commercial and residential property taxes.

39% of survey respondents supported and 33% opposed a “split roll” approach that removes the cap for commercial properties only.  Interestingly, “split roll” support is the same (39%) among residential property owners and non-owners, while property owners are in stronger opposition (39% vs. 26% for non-owners).

More complicated would be Californians’ attitudes toward their own economic conditions, as the state finishes its eighth consecutive year of growth, the second longest such stretch in California’s post-World War II era.

Three-fourth of survey respondents believe they’re the same or better off financially versus a year ago; 81% believe their finances will be the same or better six months from now.

But when asked to compare their finances to their parents when they were at the same age, only 57% said equal or better while 34% said they were worse off than their parents were.

A surprise: it’s not millennial voters offering the gloom. Only 26% of respondents aged 18-29 said they were worse off, compared to 34% of respondents aged 30-44, 40% of respondents aged 45-64 and 32% of 65-and older respondents.

The only age group that wasn’t net-positive about its generational good fortune: respondents in the 45-64 range (38% better off, 40% worse off).

When asked to take the long view and think about how the next generation will do compared to their parents, there was a stark difference between white and Hispanic respondents. Only 20% of white Californians said they expected the next generation to do better than their parents, and 46% said they expected them to do worse. But among Hispanics, the view was more positive than negative, 35% to 32%.

“The brighter outlook among Hispanic respondents is a good reminder,” said Tammy Frisby, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, “that we can’t understand the California economy and public opinion about it without paying attention to who Californians are today. Or who we will increasingly be in the future.”

Finally, the Golden State Poll asked Californians where to look for economic stewardship. Only 12% of survey respondents believe government does the best job of generating jobs and growth, versus 43% who chose the businesses and 33% who opted for consumers.

Asked to choose the best way for government to encourage economic growth, 47% said cut taxes and business regulations while 41% chose spending on programs and infrastructure. Again, the survey showed a partisan fracture: Democrats were 60% in favor of spending and only 25% in support of tax cuts; Republicans overwhelmingly preferred tax cuts (84%) to spending (just 10% in favor). Among independent voters, there was a more mixed view. 52% pointed to cutting taxes and regulations, while 35% credited government spending.

The May 2017 issue of Eureka, a Hoover Institution online publication focusing on policy, political and economic issues confronting California, was released in conjunction with the survey.

The issue focuses on California’s economy and infrastructure needs, including a look at what effect state tax policy has on the jobs climate, a building and repair strategy for California’s next half-century, plus an examination of a much-discussed driving mileage tax for California motorists. In addition, Hoover research fellow Tammy Frisby offers an in-depth analysis of the survey’s results.

The Hoover Institution’s Golden State Poll is conducted by researchers at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, in partnership with the survey research firm YouGov. The May 2017 Hoover investigators are: Tammy Frisby, PhD; and Bill Whalen. Additional guidance was provided by economists John Cochrane, Ph.D., John Cogan, Ph.D., and John Taylor, Ph.D., who are Senior Fellows at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

CONTACT INFORMATION:  Marlon Bateman | Office of Public Affairs | Hoover Institution bateman [at] stanford.edu | 650-723-0603

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