A new poll done by students at U.C. Riverside reports that a majority of Californians still support the requirement that the state budget be passed by a 2/3 majority. The poll also indicates that Californians continue to support “ballot box budgeting” — setting budgetary priorities through the initiative process. However, some crucial details on the polling are missing, raising questions about its validity. In addition, some of the data on the sample of voters used indicates it was highly skewed, again raising questions about whether the results can be trusted.
The poll was based on telephone interviews by UCR students with 276 respondents. That in itself is a relatively low number. Consequently, the poll results have a relatively high degree of uncertainty — plus or minus 5.9%. Nevertheless, Professor David Crow, who taught the class taking the poll, insists that the differences measured were large enough to be significant.
A more troubling problem is that the poll gives no data on the geographic distribution of the respondents. The results of the May special election drive home the heterogeneity among the state’s voters, also demonstrated in the November 2008 general election results. (See earlier posts on those subjects for county-by-county maps.) Consequently, a skewed geographic distribution of respondents would likely result in a skewed set of poll results.
Even more troubling was one set of information that was disclosed — the income distribution of the respondents. The largest single class of respondents — accounting for over a quarter of those who agreed to supply financial data — had incomes of over $100,000 per year. This is far above the state’s median income and indicates that the poll’s sampling was badly skewed.
An earlier pre-election statewide poll had show similar results of support for retaining the 2/3 majority requirement, but it is possible that the new post-election budget cuts could change some voters’ minds. This poll, however, doesn’t appear to give a trustworthy answer to that question.
Here are the poll results:
And here’s a link to a Sacramento Bee blog entry that uncritically accepted the poll’s results. (tsk, tsk!)