Polling offers snapshots of voters’ thinking but is frequently frustrating because while certain information is revealed the pollsters don’t have the time to dig deeper into issues that might change the reflexive attitudes expressed in answering the initial question. Yet, polls are often used by politicians as foundations to suggest new programs and spending. This feeling came up again in reading the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll on Californians and Their Economic Well-Being.
In short summary, the poll shows many Californians are struggling economically due to the effects of the coronavirus. The complete, detailed polling results can be found here.
In focusing on how to improve Californians economic well-being, PPIC posed a series of questions on providing government funding to improve citizens’ economic standing.
Overwhelmingly, poll respondents embraced nearly all the suggestions: Fund child-care programs for low income working parents, 78% of all adults favored, 76% of likely voters; increase government funds for job training, 83% of all adults favored, 82% of likely voters; a government health care insurance option, 77% of all adults approved, 75% of likely voters; expand the earned income tax credit, 73% of all adults favored, 72% of likely voters; make college tuition free, 66% of all adults approved, 59% of likely voters; eliminate college debt, 65% of all adults approved, 60% of likely voters.
The natural follow-up question is how should government pay for all these programs? That question was not asked.
Clearly, if all these programs were offered there would be debates on the costs and effectiveness of each program. How much can government afford, especially in these rough economic times? Certainly, with such follow up discussion the sky-high approval ratings recorded for the questions would drop to some degree, but that information is not afforded to legislators studying the poll results.
It’s interesting to note that the only program that showed negative feedback was a federal Universal Basic Income idea. Yet, a bill has already been introduced in the California legislature by Assemblymember Evan Low to establish a California Universal Basic Income.
You can expect that the other more popular programs will also engender advocates looking for government dollars and supporting bills to raise taxes to achieve these ends.
Even though the commercial property tax measure was defeated on the November ballot, its expected that major tax increase bills will be introduced into this legislative session. While the property tax appeal raised fears that all homeowners may be affected eventually, which helped lead to its defeat, a tax on the wealthy may have more appeal. The atmosphere could be ripe for such a move as tax increase advocates argue that income disparity has widened during the pandemic, with many of the highest income Californians getting richer. Well more than half of the poll respondents agree that the gap between the rich and poor is getting larger.
Governor Gavin Newsom had distanced himself from tax the wealth formulas, insisting in a global economy, money can easily move out of California. But that won’t stop legislators and their advocates from trying. They will use the new poll numbers as ammunition in their cause.
Newsom, however, might look at the answer to another question offered in the poll. PPIC found that 26% — one of four Californians—are considering moving out of the Golden State.
Using the poll numbers as a way to pave the road for new programs requires additional poll questions be asked. Where is the money coming from and are you willing to raise taxes to get there?