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Field Poll Finds Californians Want State Government Overhauled

Field Poll Finds Californians Want State Government Overhauled

Susan Ferriss | The Sacramento Bee via YellowBrix

October 14, 2009

Frustrated California voters think a state government overhaul is needed, but a majority believe it shouldn’t be so easy for them to change the state’s constitution at the ballot box, a new Field Poll has found.

Raising the ballot box threshold for approving a constitutional amendment from a majority to two-thirds was favored by 56 percent in the poll and opposed by 36 percent.

Based on recent election results, such a move could make it nearly impossible to change the state’s governing document. Proposition 8, which declares that marriage is only between a man and a woman, passed last November with 52 percent approval, far below the 66.6 percent that would be needed.

“The public is willing to back off” on allowing just a majority of voters the power to change the constitution, said Mark DiCamillo, executive director of the Field Poll.

Click here to view large graphic

A slim majority of 51 percent said they thought that “fundamental changes” were needed to the state constitution to change how the state government functions. An identical portion said they would prefer that a constitutional convention rather than an appointed commission take on that task.

A business-oriented group called the Bay Area Council is preparing two ballot initiatives aimed for the November 2010 ballot that would allow voters to approve holding a constitutional convention and select its focus.

California voters would also have to approve any constitutional changes that came from the convention process.

The Field Poll results suggest that reform ideas floated in some circles are not popular.

By 52 percent to 43 percent, poll respondents rejected the idea of allowing the Legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority rather than the current two-thirds required vote.

Only two other states have a two-thirds budget vote requirement.

Only 25 percent of Republicans polled and 47 percent of nonpartisan voters approved the idea of lowering the two-thirds limit. But 53 percent of Democrats supported it.

David Brill, 40, a Placer County Democrat who was surveyed in the poll, opposes the two-thirds requirement.

“I’ve got a problem with it taking a two-thirds majority vote to pass the state budget of California while we can change the fundamental individual rights of a people with just a simple majority,” he said, referring to Proposition 8.


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