The political world often predicts electoral success using a model of which voters actually cast ballots. Presidential election years are more likely to mean passage of liberal ideas, while other years lean more toward the conservative viewpoint.
And that's what might make the findings of a new poll so notable: No matter which voters you ask, there's broad support for shining some sunlight into how things are done under the state Capitol dome.
"This issue seems to cut through the partisanship," said Sam Blakeslee, a former Assembly Republican leader and now director of the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
A newly released poll commissioned by the institute finds an impressive breadth and depth of support among likely voters for five different changes in the way the Legislature conducts its business:
- Requiring all documents, including the state budget, to be online and easily searchable: 91 percent support
- Requiring the Legislature to produce a detailed report every quarter of its spending, including on travel and any perks: 90 percent support
- Requiring that all proposed laws be in print at least 72 hours before any final legislative vote: 89 percent support
- Requiring that video recordings of all legislative hearings be online within 24 hours of the event: 86 percent support.
- Requiring that all bill analyses be written by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, not legislative staff: 82 percent support.
"It is clear that the public wants information, and they want it presented in a way that is quick and easy to find, understand and act upon," said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement. Newsom is on the Cal Poly institute's advisory board.
Still, some politicos are likely to react to the poll findings with a nothing-to-see-here attitude, a view that these are no-brainers.
Exactly, said Sam Blakeslee. "It sort of begs the question: Why haven't they been implemented?"
One of those items -- the time for all legislation to be in print -- has been the source of considerable Capitol discussion in recent years, debate that has led to stalemate but nonetheless remains alive.
The survey, conducted jointly by both Democratic and GOP pollsters, also found overwhelming support for knowing more about the powerful forces that flex their political muscle in Sacramento. Of those polled, 82 percent said it's important to know more about which interest groups are behind a proposed law (something at which we recently took a closer look). And 78 percent said it should be easier to know how much money that interest groups donate to elected officials.
The Cal Poly think tank behind the poll launches its own effort at more legislative transparency next week. The program has received grant money to create an online portal for searching legislative hearings by transcript and video -- to search for specific bills and topics being debated, and then hone in to see who said what.
But some of these ideas no doubt could, and ultimately might, make their way to a statewide ballot. And while most initiatives appeal to one subset of voters -- those who show up even in quiet off-year elections, those who ride the wave of excitement from a presidential race -- these could, if the polling is accurate, work just about anytime.
"When you have common-sense reforms," said Blakeslee, "those are reforms we should all agree on, and then move forward."