The L.A. Times Push Poll – A Trial Lawyer’s Dream

Tom Del Beccaro
Former Chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate

A good lawyer will tell you that how you frame the question
often determines the response.  Knowing that, trial lawyers often ask a
series of leading questions before they push a witness to the conclusion they
want…and after reading the L.A. Times poll on taxes today, I think they must
have a degree in law.  Fortunately, Californians don’t fall for those
types of questions on election days and that’s why they have turned every
statewide tax increase over the last decade.

To start, the headline screams, "Californians
support tax hikes to help close budget gap."  Really?  Reading
the article, it’s very hard to find the actual number that does — and then it
turns out only to be 52%.  Objective election watchers will tell you that
number is far too low to hold up in a true election.  It would need to be
much higher at this point, and that’s before you take into consideration the essential
nature of this push poll.

Why do I say it’s a push poll? Two reasons: the
sampling and the nature of the questions.

A look at past special elections shows a voting
electorate that is more anti-tax than the sampling used by the L.A. Times for
this poll.  In 2009, two-thirds of
California voters turned down an extension of the same taxes Governor Brown is
trying to foist on already overburdened taxpayers. Last November, state voters
approved a measure requiring a two-thirds majority for increasing fees,
rejected a repeal of business tax incentives, and even turned down an $18 vehicle
fee to help keep state parks open. 
California voters have not just said "no" to higher taxes-they’ve
consistently said, "Hell, no."

As for pushing the poll, over the dozens of
questions, it was very apparent that the pollsters were building a narrative of
how bad things would be if voters didn’t support taxes.  For

  • As you may know, California has a total annual
    budgetof around 85 billion dollars. This year, the state faced a budget
    deficit ofmore than 26billion dollars, which the governor and state
    legislature recentlyreduced to 14 billion dollars by cutting funding for
    many state services. Toclose the rest of the budget deficit, which
    approach do you favor — cuttingspending, increasing taxes, or a
    combination of cutting spendingand increasingtaxes?
  • In order to close the rest of the budget
    deficit,would you prefer that the deficit reductions come more from
    spending cuts, morefrom taxincreases, or an equal amount from both
    tax increases and spendingcuts?
  • Do you favor or oppose the budget plan recentlyproposed
    by Jerry Brown?
  • The budget proposed by Jerry Brown closes the
    26billion dollar deficit by cutting around 12 billion dollars in spending
    andincreasing taxes orextending recent tax increases to raise more
    than 14billion dollars in revenue. The plan includes major cuts to almost
    every sectorofgovernment including health care, public safety,
    welfare services and highereducation, but not K through 12 educations It
    cuts salaries formost stateemployees, and it shifts some
    responsibilities from the state to localgovernment. Brown has proposed
    letting voters decide on thetax part of thebudget in a special
    election, which would restore recent increases in the salestax, income
    tax, and vehicle license fees thatwill have expired on June 30. Afterhearing this information, do you
    favor or oppose this budget plan proposed byJerry Brown?

Given those questions, I surprised more people didn’t
support their poll.

Again, on election days, those types of questions
don’t pop into voters’ minds to the same degree.  They’ll look at their
own budget and wonder if they could afford more taxes.  They’ll also focus
on Question 35 of the poll where, by a 2 to 1 margin, voters said wasteful
spending is how we got into this budget mess.

All of which begs the question:  why didn’t the L.A.
Times poll ask:

  • If you knew that the $14 billion that Jerry
    Brown claims to have cut from the budget was actually only $7 billion in real cuts and $7.5 billion in funding shifts, cutbacks
    to planned spending, and other budget gimmicks, would you still vote for a
    combination of higher taxes and spending cuts?
  • If you knew Jerry Brown was planning on a 30%
    increase in government spending over the next three years, would you vote for higher
    taxes to support that spending increase?
  • If you knew our current high tax rates
    contributed significantly to job losses in this state, would you vote to
    continue them?

Voters overwhelmingly would say no, and have for the
past decade.  Rather then scare voters about taxes, Governor Brown should
make real cuts in California’s state government just like Andrew Cuomo in New
York who cut back the state bureaucracy by 10,000 jobs.  The only real
question the L.A. Times needs to ask is why won’t Jerry follow the lead of his
gubernatorial counterparts?

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