Campus institute releases poll results on multiple state issues

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A campus institute released data from polls this week measuring Californian partisan support of various state issues.

UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies released responses from more than 2,000 California residents on topics such as climate change, physician-assisted suicide and increases in state taxes and fees, among others.

The campus institute delves into research regarding the federal and state legislatures while also offering fellowships and programs for campus undergraduate and graduate students.

IGS Director Jack Citrin, IGS graduate fellow Douglas Ahler and IGS Associate Director Ethan Rarick together oversaw the online questionnaires. The polls were designed to reflect policies that may arise — or have already been proposed — in the California State Legislature, according to Ahler.

Individuals from one group were surveyed on current state-proposed legislation regarding clean energy use and gasoline tax increases.

State Senate Bill 350, if passed, would require half of state electricity to be generated from renewable resources — such as wind or geothermal energy — by 2030 while also mandating the state’s gasoline use to be cut by up to 50 percent by the same year.

In addition, Senate Bill 16 would mandate an increase in gasoline taxes by 10 cents and annual vehicle registration fees by $35 to fund state road improvements.

The climate change policy poll found partisan divides between the respondents, with Democrats strongly supportive of the regulations and Republicans strongly opposed.

Voters tend to derive their ideological stances on issues based on the opinions of their party leaders, said Eric Schickler, a professor in the campus’s department of political science, in an email. Climate change is a “highly partisan issue at the elite level,” at which Democrats and Republicans have “(mostly) taken sharply opposed stands,” he said.

Additionally, support for both bills was heavily concentrated in younger respondents and declined in popularity as age increased.

“The millennials were overwhelmingly supportive of the climate change proposals,” Ahler said. “At 75 percent in favor of stricter regulations, that’s kind of amazing.”

In another poll regarding gas and vehicle registration fee increases, Californians predominantly opposed the increase, even when told about the state’s current need for road maintenance.

“It is true that Democratic voters are divided on the tax increases,” Schickler said. “This reflects the longstanding tendency for voters to be resistant to tax increases, especially when they believe the increase will hit them (the most) rather than others.”

Democrats were more in favor of higher taxes than Republicans, but not overwhelmingly so.

When asked about a higher gas tax, 73 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents opposed. Among Democrats, 54 percent favored the increase, and 46 percent opposed it.

Rarick said consumers are more likely to shy away from proposals they already understand.

“People know how much they pay for gas already,” Rarick said, “so they will know exactly how much more the policy is going to take out of their budget.”

Those surveyed were more opposed to questions associated with clear monetary costs, such as rising taxes, compared with questions “worded vaguely,” such as those regarding climate change, Ahler said.

A final group of state residents was surveyed on its opinions regarding physician-assisted suicide, an issue outlined in Senate Bill 128, which was brought to the state Legislature in January.

The poll results released Thursday regarding physician-assisted suicide showed strong support from Californians across the political spectrum.

According to the results, 76 percent of the responses favored assisted-suicide, including 82 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents and 67 percent of Republicans.

“(Assisted suicide) is a personal issue, and partisan differences would disappear here,” Rarick said. “I think partisanship doesn’t really play into it.”

Contact Jessie Qian and Elaina Provencio at [email protected].