Support for Proposition 23 drops sharply in new poll


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Opposition to Proposition 23, a November ballot initiative to suspend California’s sweeping global warming law, has surged in recent weeks, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, or PPIC. Among likely voters, 48% say they will vote against the measure and 37% say they will vote for it.

A previous PPIC poll and a USC/Los Angeles Times survey in late September had shown likely voters evenly split. Proposition 23 would suspend the state’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act until unemployment in the state declines to 5.5% for at least a year -- a level rarely achieved for that duration.


The global warming law, also known as AB 32, aims to slash the state’s carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are trapping heat in the atmosphere and disrupting Earth’s climate.

The precipitous drop in support for the initiative comes as Silicon Valley tycoons have spent millions of dollars to fight it, saying the measure would halt investment in solar and wind energy, low-carbon fuels, electric cars and other green-tech businesses that are growing rapidly in California. Major national environmental groups, who see California’s law as a model for national climate legislation, have also donated millions of dollars in opposition.

In attitudes toward Proposition 23, the PPIC poll found that education mattered more than income. Among college graduates, 55% opposed the initiative, compared with 37% of those with a high school degree or less. But there was no significant difference among those earning more than $80,000 a year or less than $40,000 a year.

Voters identifying themselves as white were more likely to say they will vote no than Latinos. Among whites, 51% opposed it and 34% said they would vote yes. Among Latinos, the margin was 42% against and 44% in favor -- a statistical dead heat.

In addition to mainstream conservation groups, Latino activists in environmental justice groups in Los Angeles and other cities are campaigning against the measure, saying it would lead to more smog and toxic air pollution, as well as greenhouse gases -- an assertion that is supported by the American Lung Assn. and other health groups but disputed by initiative backers. In the last three weeks, a statewide “Stop the Dirty Energy Proposition” television blitz by opponents has painted the initiative as a “deceptive scheme” bankrolled by “two Texas oil companies.” The companies, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., who operate California refineries and are the main funders of the initiative, would “pollute our air, kill clean energy jobs and keep us addicted to costly oil,” the TV spots charged.

That message may have resonated. “The voters are very cynical about initiatives,” said Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive of the policy institute. “They assume that there is some interest group that is behind it unless they hear otherwise.”

The No on 23 campaign has raised more than $28 million, as opposed to just $9 million for supporters of the measure. As its funding has dried up, the Yes campaign has curtailed its TV air time. So its message attacking the state’s global warming law as an ‘energy tax” that would kill jobs may have failed to reach many voters.


“Californians are seeing Prop. 23 for what it is: a deceptive measure financed by Texas oil companies to kill California’s clean air and energy standards,’ said Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for No on 23. ‘They’ve figured out that Valero is the new Enron.’

But Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for Yes on 23, said, ‘The poll is testimony to what can happen when billionaire hedge fund managers and venture capitalists decide it’s more in their self-interest to invest in defeating an initiative that would pull the plug on subsidies and incentives for green-tech than to invest in the green-tech sector itself.’

Proposition 23 has become a flashpoint in the gubernatorial and senatorial races, attracting attention just as opponents ramped up their campaign. Democratic candidates Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer strongly oppose Proposition 23. GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman says she would suspend the global warming law for a year and try to “fix” it. Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina supports Proposition 23.

The PPIC surveyed 1,067 likely voters Oct. 10-17. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The earlier survey was taken Sept. 19-26.

-- Margot Roosevelt


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Graphic by Paul Duginski /Los Angeles Times