Those are the polling numbers CHSRA Board Chair Quentin Kopp cited in a Sacramento Bee article over the weekend:
Kopp said the bond measure enjoys public support for the landmark project. As the bond reads now, 58 percent of Californians favor the bond and 32 percent oppose it, he said.
Now, we don't know any details of this poll other than what Kopp gave Judy Lin, the author of the Bee article. And those details matter. How many people were polled? What was the exact wording of the question asked of respondents? How many people said they were familiar with the high speed rail project? (If that number was above 40% I would be shocked.) All of that information is crucial to understanding this poll, and how seriously we ought to take it.
But for now, 58-32 is all we have to go on. And it is *very* encouraging. The rule of thumb for California ballot propositions is that the Yes position must be above 50% in the polls early on if it is to have a chance at passage. This is because most ballot props lose support as the election draws nearer. Negative campaigning is very effective, and as attacks on the proposition increase nearer the election, support ebbs. If you're well above 50% before those attacks begin, though, the chances are typically good that the proposition will pass.
As we've been debating in some of the recent posts on this site, the political landscape for HSR this year seems unfavorable, at least according to some. The usual argument is that given the state's budget crisis, voters will not likely be willing to float $10 billion in bonds. I realize this is a valid concern, but I am confident we can pass this plan. Especially in November, when we are likely to see a very high turnout of progressive voters - the very folks who are most likely to get why HSR is such a good idea.
But to help ensure passage, the following points need to be driven home to California voters over the next 8 months:
- HSR is necessary to our economic survival, in both the short term and definitely in the long-term. Californians need to see this as a necessary project that they kill at their own cost.
- HSR is affordable - it won't break our state's debt ceiling, the system will likely generate a surplus as do all other HSR systems in the world, it's cheaper than expanding airports and freeways, and it will spur a lot of economic growth.
- HSR is necessary for our transportation needs - this really depends on more people learning about peak oil, but perhaps $4 gas and fuel surcharges on flights will help get us part of the way there. Californians have to see that they cannot expect to drive and fly around the state for much longer. If they want to see mom and dad in Orange County at Christmas in 2020, they're going to need a high speed train.
- HSR is necessary for our climate needs - it would eliminate 12.4 billion pounds per year of carbon emissions, equivalent to removing a million vehicles from the roads. If Californians really do take global warming seriously, they will see HSR as a compelling solution to the climate crisis.
Note the common theme: HSR is necessary. It isn't, as the Capricious Commuter said, "an esoteric infrastructure project." It is vital to this state's future. If we are to win the vote this fall, we are going to have to make sure Californians understand that fact.