Public Opinion Poll

Proposition 13 Remains Popular and Most Californians Feel Overtaxed, Poll Finds


Proposition 13 continues to have the support of nearly two-thirds of California’s voters and the vast majority of Californians believe their taxes are too high, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released June 13.

Asked whether “passing Proposition 13 turned out to be mostly a good thing for California or mostly a bad thing,” 65 percent said mostly good, 30 percent said mostly bad, 1 percent volunteered a mixed opinion, and 4 percent said they don’t know. This is consistent with numerous polls over many years showing that support for Proposition 13 remains at nearly the same two-to-one margin that it had on June 6, 1978, when it was approved with 64.8 percent of the vote.

Asked about the combined amount of taxes paid to state and local governments, 68 percent of Californians said they pay too much (40 percent said they pay “much more” than they should and 28 percent said they pay “somewhat more” than they should), compared to 5 percent who said they pay less than they should and 26 percent who said they pay “about the right amount.”

Similarly, the poll found that when asked if they would rather “pay higher taxes and have a government that provides more services” or “pay lower taxes and have a state government that provides fewer services,” 56 percent favored lower taxes, 42 percent favored higher taxes, and 3 percent said they don’t know. The question, which often appears in the PPIC’s “Californians and Their Government” polls, is predicated on the assumption that higher taxes result in more services and lower taxes result in fewer services.

The poll of 1,677 California adult residents – conducted from May 23 to June 2 in English and Spanish, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points – also indicated that the fate of the Taxpayer Protection Act is likely to depend on the ability of the proponents to educate voters about what the measure would do.

After hearing the attorney general’s title for the measure – “Limits Ability of Voters and State and Local Governments to Raise Revenues for Government Services” – along with the attorney general’s summary, which says the measure “eliminates voters’ ability to advise how to spend revenues from proposed general tax on same ballot as proposed tax,” 32 percent of the respondents said they would vote “yes,” compared to 63 percent who would vote “no” and 5 percent who said they don’t know.

“We are encouraged to see that PPIC’s findings so closely mirror our own research, which shows that every single element of the Taxpayer Protection Act is wildly popular with voters,” the proponents’ campaign said in a written statement. “We know voters overwhelmingly support TPA once they know it gives them the right to vote on all future state and local taxes. It’s no surprise to us that the Attorney General’s deceptive Title and Summary is confusing to voters. The PPIC results also validate our own research that shows there is no appetite for new and higher taxes and that voters’ number one concern continues to be the state’s cost-of-living crisis. It’s clear from PPIC’s data, and our own, that voters are poised to pass TPA this November.”

Two PPIC poll findings that are likely to come up during the campaign: 36 percent of respondents said “the most important issue facing people in California today” is the cost of living (including the economy, inflation, and jobs), which is far ahead of the no. 2 issue, housing costs and availability, cited by 19 percent. Only 4 percent said the top issue is the state budget, deficit, and/or taxes. In a separate question, 62 percent said “things in California are generally going in the wrong direction,” vs. 36 percent who said the state is going in the right direction.

Other findings from the poll:

  • ACA 13, the measure placed on the ballot to increase the vote threshold for taxpayer protection initiatives – described by the pollster in largely favorable terms – has the support of 58 percent of the voters, with 37 percent opposed and 5 percent who don’t know.
  • ACA 1, placed on the ballot by the Legislature to make it easier for local governments to increase taxes by reducing the two-thirds vote requirement to 55 percent for tax and bond measures that fund public infrastructure and affordable housing projects, is supported by just 45 percent of the voters and opposed by 53 percent, with 2 percent who don’t know.
  • Asked if it is “a good time or a bad time for the state to issue bonds to pay for state projects and programs,” 64 percent said it is a bad time and 34 percent said it is a good time, with 2 percent who don’t know.

The PPIC also included a question that incorrectly describes the contents of Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal, stating that “despite the projected shortfall, the plan currently includes no new taxes.” In fact, the proposal – approved June 13 by the Legislature and expected to be signed by the governor before July 1 – calls for business tax increases totaling approximately $18 billion over a three-year period.

Given several options for how the state should address its operating deficit, 42 percent chose “mostly through spending cuts,” 8 percent said “mostly through tax increases,” 40 percent favor “a mix of spending cuts and tax increases,” 7 percent said it is “okay to borrow money and run a budget deficit,” and 3 percent said they don’t know.

The self-reported political leanings of the respondents: 12 percent “very liberal,” 18 percent “somewhat liberal,” 45 percent “middle-of-the-road,” 17 percent “somewhat conservative,” 7 percent “very conservative,” and 1 percent “don’t know.”

Of the respondents who are likely voters, 49 percent are registered Democrats, 25 percent are registered Republicans, 22 percent decline to state a political party preference, and 3 percent are registered with another party.