Let’s stipulate that with the airwaves war on California’s ballot measures just beginning, the numbers released in yesterday’s statewide polls are just a reference point for things to come once the campaigns take shape. Still, the PPIC and Field polls indicate we could be looking at a “status quo” election — after it’s over nothing much has changed.

PPIC focused on the three measures on the top of the ballot (Propositions 30, 31, and 32) and added Molly Munger’s income tax proposal for the schools (Proposition 38). Of those four measures, only Governor Jerry Brown’s tax increase proposal was in the lead and it was barely over the magic 50-percent mark at 52% Yes, 40% No. (The Field Poll on Prop 30 is also out showing similar numbers, 51% Yes, 36% No.)

Proposition 31’s budget reform proposal has a tough hill to climb standing at 25% Yes, 42% No.

Proposition 32’s campaign finance reform to limit corporate and union campaign funding is behind for the first time in any poll at 42% Yes, 49% No.

Munger’s tax plan for the schools stands dead-even 45-45.

You’ve read many times here and elsewhere that political experts say initiative measures should start off well over 50% because support tends to drop as Election Day nears. If that old saw plays out in November, then the four measures tested by PPIC all go down in flames. After endless debates, extensive news coverage, and most importantly from a campaign context, millions and millions of dollars spent – nothing would change.

As someone who is involved in both supporting some of these measures and opposing others, that would be frustrating. As I have stated before, reform is needed to make the state function better.  We shall see if the campaigns are strong enough to prevent a “status quo” election or if Sacramento remains unchanged.

Where are Those Independents, Anyway?

Highly sought after independent voters appear to hold the key in a number of statewide ballots according to the PPIC poll with Republicans and Democrats grouped strongly on one side of a measure or the other.

Even in a state like California, which has a decidedly blue tint, it is independent voters who can turn a ballot campaign from victory to defeat or vice-versa.

The Proposition 30 tax increase measure shows independent likely voters favoring the proposal by 53% to 44%. The 9-point spread is a bit less than the 12-point lead Prop 30 has with all likely voters. Democrats clearly support Prop 30 (73-17); Republicans oppose (26-65), so at this stage of the game, the measure is competitive and the independent vote is clearly a key. If it swings slightly against Prop 30 as the campaigns gear up, the proposition is in danger of slipping away.

The other income tax measure, Proposition 38, has independent voters going 53%-37%. The pro-Prop 38 votes of independents adheres more closely to the Democratic vote of 61% Yes. Republicans oppose by 68%.

On Proposition 32, the independents are almost in lock step with the Republicans. Independents: 52% Yes, 42% No. Republicans: 53% Yes, 39% No. The close vote with Republicans and independents on Prop 32 put it in danger of falling because Democrats, the largest voter group, are more decisively opposed by 61% with only 28% supportive.

On Prop 31, the independents actually lead the opposition to the measure with 51% opposed to Democrats 40% opposed and Republicans 41% opposed. None of the groups offer support greater than 30%.