Thursday, December 4, 2008

Who Supported Prop 1A?

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a poll today that, among other subjects, asked voters why they voted as they did on Proposition 1A. The results are an interesting gauge of the reasons for public support for HSR, even if the questions are a bit general and lack the level of depth I'd prefer to see.

In an open-ended question, the top reason voters give for voting yes on the measure is their perception that high-speed rail is important to the future of California (37%). Those who voted yes also think high-speed rail will help fill California’s unmet transportation needs (16%), reduce traffic congestion (10%), and make travel more convenient (10%). Those who voted no are most likely to cite as reasons the state budget deficit or that the state cannot afford it (44%), or that the bond amount is too much (24%).

I'd like to see more detail on what they mean by "important to the future of California" - providing sustainable transit? Green jobs? Reduce carbon emissions? Save at the pump? Spur smart growth? Still, this result does indicate that our activism should continue to emphasize that HSR is important to our future - no matter which specific reason we give at any particular moment. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that during the campaign.

The poll did provide some information on other reasons for support, many of which revolve around improving the quality, speed, and convenience of transportation. It comes as no surprise that fiscal reasons played a big role in motivating the No voters. That should give us renewed purpose in ensuring that HSR is built as close to the budget estimates as possible, and that we are successful in getting federal funding.

The poll also showed some of the party splits:

Dems: 65% yes, 35% no
Reps: 34 y, 66 n
Independent: 52 y, 48 n

No surprise there. PPIC also attempted a generational breakdown, but given that 18-54 is so broad as to be meaningless, I'm not sure how much it tells us:

Age 18-54: 55 y, 45 n
55 and up: 49y, 51 n

The final margin of victory was 52.6% yes, 47.4% no, with almost exactly 625,000 votes separating the two. It's a significant margin of victory, but not a landslide either.

Going forward we need to continue to emphasize how important HSR is to our state's future - and why that is the case. We also need to drill down to the local level - show why HSR is important to specific cities and regions. The coming campaign for federal funding will provide an opportunity to do exactly that, sustaining the public support demonstrated last month and ensuring that Californians continue to embrace their high speed future.


Rafael said...

Interestingly, this implies the emphasis of the pitch to Congress should be the energy independence and green tech jobs angles whereas the one to California residents should stress the additional north-south link, productivity in transit thanks to WiFi and avoiding even more expensive freeway/runway upgrades.

That said, the state budget deadlock really needs to be broken. It's not going to happen as long as it takes a 2/3 majority to pass one, giving all involved a chance to blame each other for delays and accounting shenanigans. Now that the housing bubble has burst, the cracks have become too wide to paper over.

Matt in SF said...

Also from the poll:

"Of those who voted yes on Proposition 1A, 71 percent have
at least some confidence in the state’s ability to plan. Of those who voted no, 61 percent have very little
or no confidence."

That's a pretty strong correlation between having confidence in government and voting in favor of HSR.

It seemingly behooves HSR proponents to emphasize the potential for government to be a positive force. For example, making comparisons to successful government works programs (dams, roads, bridges, levies, canals, etc.) that have benefited society or the economy.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Did any survey questions speak to having faith in god in solving mobility challenges, congestion, global warming, jobs creation, etc?

I am only partially kidding. I really do not expect a survey entertain a line of thought like that. It's either too nominal to have significance, or it offends some people.

But, some people do decide their ballot booth vote on such things... believing in a higher power being able to find a solution for various life challenges.

Rafael said...

@ brandon -

you mean like the homeland security department in Kansas? Don't worry, God will fix it! Heckofajob, etc.

I'd rather have actual people held accountable for public investments and spending.

BBinsandiego said...

@ branden

I don't know what set of voters it is that went to the polls with the question “What would Jesus do?" on their mind but I'd guess it's a pretty small subset of the electorate. One thing I do know about voters is that religious voters tend to register and vote republican. With that in mind I'd guess that the Jesus vote went pretty much against the bonds. Bringing these voters, and the rest of the skeptics, around to support HSR will not be easy. They will view it as a financial boondoggle right up until they use it.

Please remember, fifty years ago this same set of voters vigorously opposed freeways for many of the same reasons they vote against HSR today. It goes beyond the simple "too expensive" argument to one of ideology. HSR is a government distortion of the free-market. After all if it's such a good idea wouldn't the free-market have provided it already?

This segment of the voting public will be in furious opposition right up until they can buy a ticket and ride for cheap. After all, they have no ideological opposition to driving the freeways now. There’s no reason why their opposition to the train won’t melt just as easily once they take a ride.

The key to the whole argument is to get the thing built on time and on budget.

By the way, I think Jesus would have voted yes!

Robert Cruickshank said...

Unfortunately is having some major technical difficulties, otherwise today's post would already be up.

That reminds me - Blake, if you're reading, I have looked over the site design you sent me and I'll have comments for you later tonight.