Poll

Statewide ban on plastic grocery bags has broad support, poll shows

A statewide ban on plastic grocery bags has broad support among voters, according to USC Dornsife/Times poll

A statewide ban on plastic grocery bags has broad support among voters, presenting a challenge for industry groups that hope to overturn the law, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

Sixty percent of the voters who answered the survey said they support the ban, signed recently by Gov. Jerry Brown. It applies to single-use plastic sacks at grocery stores and pharmacies starting July 1 and expands to convenience and liquor stores a year later.

Overturning the law could be difficult, the poll shows. A third of Californians already live in places with local restrictions, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, and many voters are used to them.

"I keep a bunch of bags inside my car," said Sherezada Caballero, a 29-year-old photographer and filmmaker in Los Angeles, who is not affiliated with a political party.

"Whenever I go into the store," she said, "I take them out of my trunk. It's not that big of a deal."

Moreover, among those who do not live under local restrictions, 52% support the statewide ban.

"Even the people who haven't been exposed to it don't think it's egregious," said Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the Democratic pollster on the bipartisan survey team.

The law could still be placed on hold if opponents collect 504,760 signatures by the end of the year to qualify their referendum for the November 2016 ballot.

That could force a costly fight two years from now between bag manufacturers on one side and store owners, environmental groups and unions on the other.

The bag ban was one of the most contentious issues in the Capitol this year, sparking intense lobbying.

Environmentalists wanted the new law, saying plastic bags can pollute rivers and oceans, harming wildlife. Bag makers fought the measure, arguing that it would cause job losses.

California, which has a long history of strict environmental regulation, is the first state to enact a statewide ban. According to the poll, a majority among all races and income levels would vote to uphold it.

Among those who oppose it, most said the law shows government overreach.

That's what bothers Phil Yarbrough, a 53-year-old Republican from Orange County who owns a mortgage financing company.

"We ought to have the freedom to choose what we should want for ourselves," he said, adding that lawmakers should focus on bigger problems such as schools and the drought.

"There are serious problems in California," Yarbrough said. "They seem to be sidetracked with stuff that really aren't the big issues."

David Kanevsky of American Viewpoint, the Republican half of the polling team, said that such arguments are unlikely to carry the day in a referendum battle.

"If this becomes an ideological thing, that's not enough to persuade voters in a Democratic-leaning state where voters aren't necessarily opposed to more government if they agree with … what it's trying to do," he said.

Other respondents disliked new costs that come with the ban. Instead of plastic bags, stores will offer paper bags for at least 10 cents each.

"If I go to your store, and buy anything in your store, you're supposed to have the courtesy to give us the bags to carry things out of your store," said Georgia Anderson, an 87-year-old retired Democrat living near Los Angeles.

"I don't feel like I'm supposed to pay 10 cents for a bag — paper, plastic, whatever," she said.

Nicholas Snow, a 52-year-old Democrat, predicted people would easily form new bag habits.

He starred as the "bag monster," wearing a costume covered in plastic bags, in public service announcements about a local ban in Palm Springs, where he lives.

"There's probably people with hundreds of bags stuffed in a drawer in their kitchen," he said. "They won't miss those bags when they're gone, and they'll be able to use their drawer space for something else."

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted by telephone with 1,537 registered voters from Oct. 22 through 29. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

chris.megerian@latimes.com

Twitter: @chrismegerian

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