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.