As is often heard around the capitol, the devil is in the details when it comes to laws that are written to carry out what appear to be acceptable concepts. That seems to be the case with two controversial ballot propositions according to the latest Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll.

When asked simple, plain language questions by the pollsters on the gas tax repeal (Proposition 6) and the rent control measure (Proposition 10), a majority of likely voters liked the ideas. But when the titles of both measures and a description of what they would do was read to the poll respondents, they turned thumbs down on both items.

When the idea of a gas tax repeal was presented simply to the voters by PPIC–Do you favor or oppose repealing the recently passed increase in the state gas tax?–50% of the respondents favored repealing the tax while 46% opposed.

Yet, when Proposition 6 was read with the title provided by the Attorney General followed by a brief explanation that the gas tax and fees passed in 2017 would be repealed and that an on-going $5.1 billion designated mainly for highway repairs and maintenance would be reduced, 39% approved the measure 52% opposed.

Similarly, when likely voters were asked if rent control was a good thing or a bad thing, the good outweighed the bad 52% to 41%.

That margin was turned upside down when the same likely voters were read the ballot title and given a short description that included a fiscal impact that potentially could reduce state and local revenues. The result: Yes on Prop 10 –36%; No on Prop 10 –48%.

Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC explained, “Voters can like the general idea more than the specifics of a proposition, and this seems to be the case with Propositions 6 and 10. For Proposition 6, the ballot title and label point out both the repeal of a gas tax increase and the consequences for transportation projects. For Proposition 10, likely voters do not seem to be connecting the expansion of rent controls with their housing affordability concerns.”

It is possible the titles on the initiatives issued by the Attorney General might have influenced the response.

Carl DeMaio, leader of the gas tax repeal effort, clearly believes that the title on the ballot measure is hurting chances for passing the measure. Prior to the release of the PPIC poll, DeMaio sent a fundraising email to supporters saying his internal poll showed similar results. “Sacramento politicians gave us an unfair and biased “Title” for the gas tax repeal” DeMaio wrote, “which erroneously reads “Prop 6 – Eliminates Certain Road Repair and Transportation Funding.” Based simply on that title, we are LOSING.”

However, as Baldassare observed, “It’s important to keep in mind that this is a first read on the voters’ responses before the propositions are defined by the yes and no campaigns. Its’ also noteworthy that the general support is in the low 50 percent range for the gas tax repeal and rent controls.”

In other words, it is possible for the proponents for both Prop 6 and Prop 10 to be successful on Election Day. But both Yes campaigns will need to overcome a withering assault launched by opponents who will have superior resources.