In reading the latest PPIC poll, policy does not seem to be behind selection of candidates in the coming election’s high-profile races. If policy and positioning were paramount, you would think that gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom and U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León, who share similar positions on the left of the policy scale, would be doing about the same with likely voters who self-identify as Liberals. According to the poll, that is not the case.

While Newsom leads the governor’s race overall, he is also ahead of all his opponents among Liberal voters. Newsom has staked his ground on the left in his run for governor. Among Liberal likely voters, Newsom garnered 33% support, well ahead of second place finisher among Liberals, Antonio Villaraigosa, at 16%.

In the U.S. Senate contest, Kevin de León is on the left making an issue of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s moderate stances. Yet, Liberal likely voters by a wide margin back Feinstein in the poll 58% to de León’s 23%.

Clearly, familiarity with the candidates rather than policy positions plays a key role in the results. Feinstein has been around a long time. Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and overseer of the poll said,  “I would also look to Feinstein’s high approval rating and solid support among (Democrats)” in explaining Feinstein’s dominance in the poll.

Speaking of familiarity, another underreported item in the poll is the continuing support for Proposition 13.

Asked if Prop 13 was mostly a good thing or mostly a bad thing, the nearly 40-year-old tax reform measure still continues to enjoy two-to-one support. 57% of the respondents agreed that Prop 13 was mostly a good thing while 23% said it was mostly a bad thing with 17% answering they didn’t know.

The poll also asked about the Proposition 13 provision requiring a two-thirds vote to pass local special taxes. 39% responded that the provision had a good effect, 19% answered it had a bad effect with 26% saying no effect and 16% did not know.

However, when asked if special taxes should be approved with a 55% vote rather than a two-thirds vote, those polled rejected the idea with 35% in support but 55% opposed.