Proposition 15

Voters Nearly Evenly Split on Split-Roll Initiative, Polls Indicate

No on Prop 15

With three days until the November 3 election, recent polls continue to indicate that the split-roll initiative (Proposition 15) will either pass or fail by a very narrow margin.

A poll released October 26 by the University of California at Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that voter support for Proposition 15 is at 49 percent (the same level reported by the pollster in September) while opposition is at 42 percent (up 8 percent from September) and 9 percent are undecided (down from 17 percent in September). The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percent.

The latest poll was conducted October 16 to October 21, while the previous survey was conducted September 9 through September 15. The polls included likely voters as well as registered voters considered less likely to actually cast ballots.

“If history is any guide, when late campaign shifts toward the No side are observed in heavily contested and well-financed ballot measures like Prop. 15, its lead tends to reduce further in the closing weeks, resulting in a closer outcome,” the pollster wrote in a news release.

The wording of the question used by the pollster was based on the biased title and summary prepared by Attorney General Xavier Becerra:

“Proposition 15: increases funding sources for public schools, community colleges, and local government services by changing tax assessment of commercial and industrial property. Initiative constitutional amendment. Taxes such properties based on current market value, instead of purchase price. Fiscal impact: Increased property taxes on commercial properties worth more than $3 million providing $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion in new funding to local governments and schools. If the election were held today how would you vote on Proposition 15?” (Those who already voted were asked, “How did you vote on Proposition 15?”)

The pollster reported that 56 percent of likely voters agreed that the proposed changes in Proposition 15 “would only be the first step in bringing about similar changes to the way residential properties are taxed in the future.” Only 19 percent disagreed.

The poll was administered online in English and Spanish among 6,686 registered voters, of whom 5,352 were considered likely to vote or already voted in this year’s election. The survey was administered by distributing email invitations to random samples of the state’s registered voters. Prior to the distribution of the emails, the overall sample was stratified by age and sex in an attempt to obtain a proper balance of survey respondents across major segments of the registered voter population. Post-stratification weights were applied to align the sample of the registered voters responding to the survey to population characteristics of the state’s registered voters.

While measures polling below 50 percent prior to the election typically have failed in the past, Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley poll, said Proposition 15 should not be counted out. Californians have been focused on news about the pandemic and the presidential contest, and turned their attention to ballot measures much later than normal, he said.

“I don’t think the past rules of thumb are necessarily as important this time,” DiCamillo told the Los Angeles Times. “Whatever decision voters make on these measures, it probably will not be by a large margin.”

A poll released October 21 by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 49 percent of likely voters support Proposition 15, with 45 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided. Support has fallen since September, when the PPIC reported that 51 percent were in support, 40 percent opposed and 9 percent undecided). The poll, which surveyed 1,185 likely voters from October 9 to October 18, has a margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percent.

The question used in the PPIC poll:

“Proposition 15 is called the ‘Increases Funding Sources for Public Schools, Community Colleges, and Local Government Services by Changing Tax Assessment of Commercial and Industrial Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.’ If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition 15?”

The PPIC poll used telephone surveys using either a random digit dialing methodology conducted on landline and cell phones or web-based surveys using a probability-based online panel methodology.