Change Brown’s Policies? Which Ones?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Last week’s Public Policy Institute of California poll contained a curious question that needed some in-depth follow-up to give us context. Since the follow-up did not occur, it left a reader of the poll to do some guessing.

The question: “Would you rather see the next California governor elected in November 2018 generally continue Jerry Brown’s policies or mostly change to different policies?”

Poll respondents dutifully answered the question. Overall, 43% of likely voters said they wanted Brown’s policies to continue but 49% wanted change. But what policies should be changed? Which should be continued? What are the voters thinking about in changing the direction set by California’s leader?

There was no follow-up asking about Brown’s policies so we have to guess.

Perhaps respondents had in mind the high-speed rail when they decided we should change course from Brown. It remains an unpopular project despite full embrace by the governor. Or maybe they were tired of his constant warning about a coming recession, which demands prudence in spending decisions. Those who want change, perhaps, want to open up the spending spigots for a whole lot of budget items while the money is available.

Checking the standard question on what issues drive the poll respondents doesn’t offer much help in deciding what the likely voters were thinking.

Jobs and the economy (18%) topped the list of concerns once again just ahead of immigration (16%) and housing costs/homelessness (14%). Are we not doing enough in those areas to warrant new policies?

Brown is much more identified these days with the issue of climate change, which scored only 6% as an important issue of concern. Do voters object to Brown’s position on climate change and want a different direction from the one he so visibly pursues? It would seem unlikely.

Complicating our guesswork is that while a plurality of voters said they want to change direction from Brown’s policies, the voters said they liked the job Brown was doing. Overall, 55% of likely voters approved the job Brown was doing, 37% disapproved of the way he handled the governor’s job.

So the puzzle remains. Voters generally seem to like Jerry Brown but more than not want to change his policies.

You can bet the folks trying to solve this puzzle are those lined up to replace Brown as the next governor.

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