Property Tax, Proposition 13

Voters Continue to Overwhelmingly Support Proposition 13, Poll Finds

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California voters continue to overwhelmingly support Proposition 13, the 1978 property tax limitation initiative, and would approve it by a wide margin if it were on the ballot again today, according to a poll released November 20 by Mark DiCamillo, director of the University of California at Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

The poll was taken in late October, before Californians voted to reject Proposition 15, the split-roll initiative on the November ballot that would have repealed Proposition 13 protections for commercial and industrial property owners.

“While there has been a steady increase in the proportion of voters with no opinion of the iconic initiative over the years, among voters voicing an opinion, supporters outnumber opponents by a nearly three to one margin (53 percent to 19 percent),” DiCamillo’s group said in a news release. “There was also a clear relationship between how voters viewed Proposition 13 and how they were intending to vote on … Proposition 15. By greater than an eight-to-one margin (76 percent to 9 percent) No voters on Proposition 15 were nearly universally supportive of Proposition 13 if it were up for a vote again today.”

A historically large proportion of voters (81 percent) believe the level of state and local taxes paid by the average Californian is high, while just 19 percent consider taxes in the state to below or about right.

“In previous statewide surveys dating back to 1977, the only other times that greater than three in four voters described the level of state and local taxes as being high were in 1982 and 1991, both years in which the state was experiencing an economic downturn,” the release noted.

Other findings:

    • By a nearly five-to-one margin (78 percent to 16 percent), voters agreed that taxes in California are already so high that they are driving many people and businesses out of the state. Even the respondents who supported the split-roll initiative agreed, by a more than two-to-one margin.
    • When asked to consider the level of taxes that the average Californian paid in five specific areas, greater than two in three voters described the following state taxes as high: state gasoline taxes (71 percent), state income taxes (71 percent), sales taxes (69 percent) and property taxes (68 percent).
    • By a nearly three-to-one margin (56 percent to 19 percent) voters felt that the proposed changes to the way commercial and industrial properties were to be taxed under Proposition 15 were only the first steps in bringing about similar changes to the way residential properties would be taxed in the future. Even supporters of Proposition 15 tended to agree that it was only the first step.
    • Familiarity with Proposition 13 has declined over the years. When asked how familiar they are with the measure, 25 percent reported being very familiar with it, 31 percent said they are somewhat familiar with the initiative, and 44 percent said they are not too or not at all familiar. This represents a 12 percentage-point decline in the proportion of voters very familiar with Proposition 13 compared to 2008, the last time this question was asked to a statewide sample of voters. Familiarity directly related to a voter’s age, with just 5 percent of voters under age 30 saying they are very familiar with Proposition 13, compared to 56 percent of voters age 75 or older.
    • Support for Proposition 13 continues to be very broad-based across major subgroups of registered voters. Expressing the highest levels of support for Proposition 13 are Republicans, conservatives, long-time homeowners and seniors, greater than seven in 10 of whom would endorse the initiative if it were up for a vote again today. Voters who reported being very or somewhat familiar with the initiative said they would back Proposition 13 68 percent to 26 percent. In addition, majorities or pluralities of registered Democrats, “no party preference” voters, political moderates, renters, and voters across all age, race, gender and regions of the state also would back the initiative if voting on it today. The only major subgroup of voters where more would vote against Proposition 13 than would support it are Californians describing themselves as very liberal in politics, the release stated.

The poll was administered online in English and Spanish October 16-21, 2020 among 6,686 California registered voters, of whom 5,352 were considered likely to vote or had already voted in this year’s election. The margin of error was approximated at plus or minus 2 percent.