(CN) – California voters’ support for a contentious $52 billion transportation package dubbed the “Gas Tax” is growing with under six weeks before Election Day.
In one of the final statewide polls before the Nov. 6 election, a majority of likely voters - 52 percent - said they would leave in place a $52 billion transportation tax passed by Democratic lawmakers last year. Meanwhile, nearly 40 percent of respondents support repealing the gas tax with 8 percent undecided in the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll.
The April 2017 package raised the state’s gas tax from 18 cents to 30 cents per gallon combined with new vehicle registration fees, with new revenues meant for dilapidated highways and creaky bridges. Critics blasted the Democratic-controlled Legislature for fast-tracking the tax into law and quickly gathered signatures to qualify a repeal effort.
California’s two gubernatorial candidates are split on the issue of trashing the gas tax, with Republican John Cox calling the repeal “the most urgent need” while Democrat Gavin Newsom favors keeping the tax.
Backed by the wallets of some of California’s top Republicans - including Cox and Rep. Kevin McCarthy - supporters hope the gas tax recall effort will spur Republican turnout and help conservatives in statewide and congressional races. Many Republican candidates are focusing their campaign messages around passing Proposition 6.
According to the PPIC snapshot, 61 percent of likely Republican voters feel the outcome of Proposition 6 is “very important” compared to just 43 percent with both Democrats and Independents. Regional support for Proposition 6 is under 45 percent in places like San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but households with incomes below $40,000 are more likely to vote yes than higher earning homes.
“A slim majority of likely voters say they would vote no on Proposition 6, the gas tax repeal,” said PPIC President Mark Baldassare. “Across all of the state’s major regions, fewer than half say they would vote yes.”
In a sign that voters are seemingly warming to the gas tax which is already funding transportation projects, the PPIC survey shows more opposition to Proposition 6 compared to polls conducted earlier in the year.
A May survey by USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times found 51 percent of registered voters supported repealing the gas tax and a June SurveyUSA poll said 46 percent of respondents would vote yes on Proposition 6.
The largest donors to the repeal effort include Cox, McCarthy, the California Republican Party and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The proponents have raised $3.9 million but are greatly behind California labor unions and a coalition of opponents who have raised nearly $30 million, according to the state.
California’s growing housing shortage is also playing a featured role in the November election, most notably through a measure that would give cities more freedom to enact and expand rent control policies. Just 36 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Proposition 10, 48 percent would vote no and 16 percent are undecided.
“The poll confirms that Californians understand that Prop 10 will make California’s housing crisis even worse by freezing the construction of new affordable housing, reducing the value of their homes, and causing more evictions,” said No on Prop 10 spokesperson Steven Maviglio. “Nearly every geographic and demographic group in the state opposes this flawed measure.”
With Democrats hoping to flip several Republican-held seats across California and regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the 35-question survey also took voters’ pulse on the various congressional races.
Democrats (64 percent) were more likely to say this election is more important than previous midterms compared to Republicans (48 percent,) with 52 percent of all likely voters agreeing that this election is more important. Additionally, 54 percent of registered voters said they were leaning more toward a Democratic candidate with 37 percent leaning Republican.
Pushing to become the first California Republican to win statewide office since Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, Chicago-transplant and San Diego businessman John Cox has trimmed Newsom’s lead in half to 12 points. Just over half of likely voters favor Newsom followed by 39 percent for Cox. While still armed with a double-digit lead, current Lt. Gov. Newsom’s margin has shrunk from a commanding 24 points in the PPIC’s July survey.
Coining himself a “Jack Kemp Republican” with the cure for California’s housing shortage and affordability woes, Cox claims he is the antithesis of Newsom: a political outsider mostly funding his own campaign.
For better or worse with voters in the so-called “State of Resistance,” Cox has earned the endorsement of President Donald Trump. Just 3 in 10 Californians said they approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency in the poll.
“California finally deserves a great Governor, one who understands borders, crime and lowering taxes. John Cox is the man - he’ll be the best Governor you’ve ever had,” Trump said on Twitter before the primary.
Regardless of the Trump endorsement, Cox faces a monumental task in upsetting Newsom in a state where registered Republican voters are not only outnumbered by Democrats, but by third-party voters as well.
Along with name-brand recognition from serving as San Francisco mayor and Lt. governor for over a decade, Newsom totes endorsements from the state’s powerful labor unions and a deep campaign war-chest.
Along with Cox, another underdog candidate in the U.S. Senate race is gaining ground according to the PPIC.
After trailing incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein by 22 points in the July poll, fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon has narrowed the margin to 11 points. In order to prevent Feinstein from a fifth full term, De Leon has ground to make within his party as Democratic likely voters chose Feinstein by a two-to-one margin in the survey.
Voter interest in the U.S. Senate race appears to be waning with the state’s top-two election system producing two Democratic candidates. The survey found that 23 percent won’t bother to vote for De Leon or Feinstein.
“Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein lead their challengers by double digits although by smaller margins than in July,” concluded PPIC President Mark Baldassare.
The PPIC surveyed 1,710 adult residents across five geographic regions with a 3.5 percent sampling error.Follow @@NickCahill_5
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.