An initiative that would expand rent control in California faces a steep deficit as election day nears, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.
The survey found that 41% of likely voters favor Proposition 10 with 38% opposed and 21% undecided. California law prohibits cities and counties from implementing many forms of rent control. Proposition 10 would repeal that law, allowing local governments to develop their own policies.
Robert Shrum, co-director of USC’s Center for the Political Future and a longtime Democratic strategist, said the numbers don’t look good for the initiative. The election is less than three weeks away, and landlord-backed opponents of the measure are significantly outspending supporters.
“For an initiative that has 41% and the money is on the other side, it’s in deep trouble,” Shrum said.
Proposition 10 has its strongest support among Democrats and younger voters, the survey found. Fifty-three percent of Democratic likely voters support the initiative, as do 49% of likely voters 18 to 44.
Backing for Proposition 10 is weakest among those 65 and older, with just 29% of likely voters in support.
Proposition 10 would overturn the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Under the law, cities and counties can’t impose rent control on apartment complexes constructed after 1995 — or earlier in cities such as Los Angeles that had existing rent control ordinances in place when Costa-Hawkins passed.
The law also blocks local governments from implementing rent controls on single-family homes and gives landlords the right to charge the market rate for their apartments after a rent-controlled tenant moves out.
The USC/L.A. Times poll, which was conducted Sept. 17 to Oct. 14, surveyed 1,180 adult residents of California including 794 likely voters; the margin of sampling error was 4 percentage points in either direction for likely voters and larger for subcategories of voters based on voting behavior, age, ethnicity, party affiliation and other demographic indicators.
This poll is better news for backers of Proposition 10 than one released late last month by the Public Policy Institute of California. That survey, which was conducted in mid-September, had the initiative trailing 36% to 48% with 16% undecided.
Still, the disparity in funding between the two campaigns presents a challenge for backers of the initiative to make up ground with so little time left. More than 1 in 5 Democrats remain undecided, the new poll found, which could present an opportunity for proponents of Proposition 10, Shrum said. Fewer Republicans and unaffiliated voters have yet to make a decision.
“They would almost all have to break the same way for this to work,” Shrum said.
Opponents of Proposition 10, primarily landlords, have contributed $62.4 million as of Thursday, according to California campaign finance records. Rent control supporters have donated $24 million. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, has contributed $22.9 million of that amount.