Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy and the California Business Roundtable teamed with M4 Strategies, a public opinion and marketing research firm, to produce the first in a proposed bi-weekly series of polls on the state’s ballot measures. The design of the poll is to test the ballot title and summary only to see if there is movement over time as voters become familiar with the issues. Business Round Table president, Rob Lapsley, compared the series of polls to “a tracking poll on statewide initiatives.”

Of the ballot measures dealing with tax issues, the poll showed the governor’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, and the corporate tax initiative, Prop 39, in the lead, while the Molly Munger income tax plan for schools trails. For public safety measures, the death penalty repeal is in a statistical dead heat, while the Three Strikes reform has a healthy lead, and the Human Trafficking measure is so lopsided that less than ten percent say they will vote no, probably people who don’t believe California should have an initiative process.

Government reforms show the California Forward budget initiative with a healthy lead and the referendum on the senate district lines winning, meaning the lines would remain in place if the Yes side prevails.

In the consumer area both the auto insurance change and labeling of genetically engineered foods start off in strong positions.

The Stop Special Interest Money measure, which will prohibit political contributions by payroll deductions and prohibit unions and corporations from contributing to candidates, stands with a two to one lead. This measure is expected to see a lot of contributions and to receive a lot of attention.

Pepperdine Professor Michael Shires predicted that the numbers on most of the measures would move when the voters learn more about them.

You can read the poll results here.

The polling technique used in this effort is considered by many as the next step in measuring public awareness of political issues. “Ballot Mirroring” allows voters to spend time reading the title and summary as they would in a voting booth or before they mark an absentee ballot. Considering that listening to a question asked over the phone in a traditional poll may be difficult for the respondent to comprehend the measure, the creators of this poll believe the method will more closely reflect the voting experience.

Jeff Harrelson of M4 Stratergies noted that the poll participants who took part in the online poll spent about one-minute per measure, which is approximately what a voter would do in reading the title and summary in a voting booth.

M4 describes this polling method this way:

Panelists were recruited from a variety of online-panel sources and invited to complete surveys in exchange for monetary compensation, typically in the form of redeemable points, provided through their panel provider.

Prospective participants were invited via email from their panel provider to participate in a survey on “community issues” and told the approximate length of time and value for completion.  The cash value for participation in this survey was approximately 50 to 75 cents.

Once qualified for the survey, participants were provided instructions and invited to view the “ballot initiative” page and record how they might vote on each initiative based on a review of the Title and Summary created by the Attorney General. During this process, participants were able, and encouraged, to review all of the pending ballot initiatives before voting. This instrument design is intended to simulate the context in which voters are able to read and consider all prospective initiatives before voting by mail or at the polls on Election Day.

Samples were weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, education, region of residence in California, and voter party registration to reflect the likely 2012 General Election turnout.  Demographic weighting targets were based on census estimates and voter-file projections.

The survey was distributed to 812 likely California General Election voters from July 16 to July 17, 2012.

Professor Shires noted that this polling method is the same technology businesses use to make marketing decisions. As communication devices are changing, the polling world is attempting to keep up with the “Ballot Mirroring” method to get an accurate reading of today’s electorate.

For campaigns, following the poll series results every two weeks can be a measurement on how their messages are being received.