California Initiative Editorial Scorecard

Joe Rodota and Matt Klink
Joe Rodota is CEO of Forward Observer and Matt Klink is a Partner at California Strategies

For this 2020 edition of the scorecard, we track editorials on the 12 ballot measures that California voters will decide on Tuesday, November 3. 

This year’s editorial scorecard is based on circulation data from the Alliance for Audited Media for 22 newspaper outlets:

2020 California Initiative Editorial Endorsement Scorecard
Rank Paper Circulation
1 Los Angeles Times 653,868
2 San Jose Mercury News 527,568
3 Sacramento Bee 279,032
4 Orange County Register 250,724
5 East Bay Times 168,362
6 San Francisco Chronicle 164,820
7 Fresno Bee 157,546
8 San Diego Union-Tribune 121,321
9 La Opinion 116,256
10 The Press-Enterprise 92,697
11 The Record – Stockton 58,888
12 San Gabriel Valley Tribune 57,558
13 The Daily Breeze 57,185
14 Modesto Bee 56,723
15 Los Angeles Daily News 56,493
16 The Press Democrat 54,000
17 Long Beach Press-Telegram 41,038
18 Inland Valley Daily Bulletin 38,286
19 San Bernardino Sun 36,076
20 The Desert Sun 30,555
21 Chico Enterprise-Record 29,000
22 Bakersfield Californian 22,000

In both 2016 and 2018, we observed that editorial endorsements (pro or con) were a leading indicator of success at the ballot.

  •     Of the 10 measures on the 2016 ballot with a majority of editorials in favor, only one failed to pass (Prop 62, repeal death penalty); out of the seven measures with a majority of editorials against, only three passed.
  •     Of the 11 initiatives on the 2018 ballot, each of the four measures endorsed by a majority of leading newspapers was approved by voters (Prop 1 – Housing Bond; Prop 2 – Tax Revenue for Homeless Prevention; Prop 4 – Children’s Hospital Bond; Prop 11 – Ambulance Employee Regulations). Of the seven initiatives opposed by a majority of leading newspapers, only two (Prop 7 – Repeals Daylight Savings Time and Prop 12 – Animal Space Requirements) were approved by California voters. The remaining five were defeated.
  •     For many measures, endorsements have been lopsided – as indicated below.
2020 California Initiative Editorial Endorsement Scorecard
Proposition Yes No  
Prop 14 (Authorizes stem cell bonds) 0 11  
Prop 15 (Removes commercial, industrial and some agricultural property from Prop 13’s tax protections) 2 11  
Prop 16 (Removes voter-approved prohibition on race-conscious university admissions, public hiring and contracting) 0 11  
Prop 17 (Allows felony parolees to vote) 10 1  
Prop 18 (Allows 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and special elections if they’ll be 18 for general elections) 1 10  
Prop 19 (Allows elderly, disabled and wildfire victims to retain lower property tax rates when they change properties) 0 11  
Prop 20 (Rolls back sentencing and parole reforms enacted in Props 47 and 57) 0 11  
Prop 21 (Removes statewide constraints on local governments enacting rent control) 1 16  
Prop 22 (Allows gig tech companies to remain as independent contractors) 11 0  
Prop 23 (New regulation of kidney dialysis clinics) 0 11  
Prop 24 (Expands online consumer privacy) 0 11  
Prop 25 (Overturn cash bail prohibition) 11 0  

 

  •     Endorsements from the Top 22 California Papers
  14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Los Angeles Times               YES        
Mercury News NO NO   YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
Sacramento Bee               NO        
Orange County Register NO NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
East Bay Times NO NO   YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
San Francisco Chronicle   YES           NO        
Fresno Bee               NO        
San Diego Union-Tribune                        
La Opinion   YES                    
The Press-Enterprise NO NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
The Record – Stockton                        
San Gabriel Valley Tribune NO NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
The Daily Breeze NO NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
Modesto Bee               NO        
Los Angeles Daily News NO NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
The Press Democrat               NO        
Long Beach Press-Telegram NO NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin NO NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
San Bernardino Sun NO NO NO YES NO NO NO NO YES NO NO YES
The Desert Sun                        
Chico Enterprise-Record                        
Bakersfield Californian NO NO   NO YES NO NO NO YES NO NO YES

 

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