Poll finds voters are upset with state’s budget

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll indicates an overall pessimistic outlook among the California electorate.

Less than 20 percent of voters surveyed believe California is headed in the right direction, and 70 percent of respondents said the state is moving in the wrong direction.

Political analysts Dan Schnur, director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, Stanley Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, and David Kanevsky of American Viewpoint, a public opinion research firm held a conference call Monday to discuss the poll’s results.

Kanevsky attributes California voters’ negative attitudes to the economy.

“The economic downturn has broken Californians personally,” Kanevsky said. “There is not the optimism that bright days are around the corner.”

The most fundamental finding from the poll is California voters are in favor of a referendum to solve the state’s mounting budget crisis, which Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned for in his 2010 election, according to Schnur.

“The most important thing that came out of the poll is that Californians want to vote on a budget solution,” Schnur said. “The poll underscores that the Governor is correct in honoring the commitment [for a referendum] that he made in his campaign.”

The poll also found an overwhelming majority of Californians are in favor of a mixed solution to the state’s budget crisis.

The solution would entail an extension of tax increases signed into law in 2009 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in addition to further cuts in government spending, according to the poll.

Californians also indicated they are prepared to make sacrifices to balance the budget and curb the state’s debt.

According to Schnur, having the backing of the electorate to make drastic cuts in government spending provides Brown the  support he needs to make the decisions necessary to resolve the state’s financial woes.

“While Californians don’t understand the specifics of the budget crisis, they do understand the severity of the crisis, and Californians are willing to make difficult decisions and have chartered a course forward for the governor as he attacks the budget crisis,” Schnur said.

Greenberg also noted the governor’s high approval ratings will play a pivotal role as debate over the state’s budget heightens.

“Governor Brown has a net positive approval rating and a favorable personal rating, which put him in a decent position to lead the state of California in this difficult time,” Greenberg said. “He has moved the state to where he is on the budget issues. They will hold him accountable and hold him to a referendum with reforms in spending and tax increases.”

Kanevsky is more cautious about Brown’s approval ratings, noting one in five voters are uncertain about his job approval, and that it is still early in his first term. Kanevsky also noted California voters are in favor of a referendum, but not necessarily tax increases.

“A strong majority approves holding a special election to extend tax increases,” Kavensky said. “That doesn’t mean voters will support [a tax increase], they prefer making the decision themselves.”

Though Brown polled well, Republicans in the state legislature saw a decrease in their approval rating.

The poll specifically oversamples the Latino population, allowing political analysts greater insight into the state’s fastest growing voter-group. The poll suggested Latinos considerably disapprove of cuts in spending.

Kristen Rodgers, a freshman majoring in broadcast and digital journalism, is in favor of a mixed budget solution.

“Right now we all need to make sacrifices,” Rodgers said. “We need to raise taxes to temporarily fix the budget and institute spending cuts to ensure the state’s stability in the future.”

USC teamed up with the Los Angeles Times in 2009 to conduct political polls, and plans to continue to do so through the 2012 elections.