A Lyft and Uber driver fiddles with his smartphone as he prepares to pick up a customer on Aug. 31, 2015. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)
A new poll finds that voters are closely divided on a November ballot measure that would allow companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to continue treating their workers as contractors rather than employees, with the measure currently far short of the majority support it will need to pass.
"In general, a proposition like this, polling just 39% [support] ... would probably be at least a slight underdog in terms of its chances for passage," said IGS co-director Eric Schickler, a UC Berkeley political science professor.
If passed, companies with so-called "gig workers" could get around a recently enacted state law, Assembly Bill 5, which was crafted to comply with a 2018 ruling from the California Supreme Court defining when workers could qualify as independent contractors rather than employees.
According to the poll, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to oppose Proposition 22, while no party preference voters are more evenly divided, with 41% in favor, 33% opposed and 26% undecided.
Support for the measure was lowest (31%) in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is home to many tech companies that support it. Support was highest in Orange and San Diego Counties, the Central Valley and the Inland Empire. The proposition was not supported by a majority of voters in any part of the state, the poll found, and about a quarter of voters in all regions are undecided.
The poll also found that the measure is, not surprisingly, strongly opposed by organized labor, which is hoping to unionize gig workers. Likely voters living in union households oppose the measure (32% yes, 44% no) more than those living in non-union households (41% yes, 34% no).
The poll found higher support among Black and Asian/Pacific Islander voters than among Latino or white voters, although for all groups, approval fell well short of 50%.
The Yes on 22 campaign has raised at least $184 million, including at least $30 million each from Uber, Lyft and Doordash. Two other companies — Instacart and Postmates — have also kicked in $10 million for the Yes campaign. Opponents, made up mostly of organized labor, have raised just $10 million.
The poll also found Proposition 15, which would raise taxes on commercial and industrial property worth $3 million or more, ahead 49% to 34% with 17% undecided.
Support was strongest among Democrats, renters and voters under the age of 50 who favor creating a so-called "split roll" that would separate commercial and industrial property from residential property and agricultural land, all of which are currently taxed based on original purchase price. Proposition 15 would require commercial and industrial property to be reassessed and taxed at market value, or what it could be sold for, rather than purchase price.
"As of now, the proposition is running ahead among no-party-preference voters. And so, I think if that coalition holds up, I think it's in [a] good position to pass," Schickler said.
Both campaigns have raised a significant amount of money, with supporters pulling in at least $40 million from labor unions and other left-leaning groups, while opponents have raised $29 million from business groups.
Proposition 16, which would reverse California's ban on affirmative action in public education and hiring, is far behind with just 33% of registered voters supporting it and 41% opposed, while 26% are undecided, according to the poll.
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Voters are evenly divided on Proposition 21, which would expand local government's authority to put rent control on residential properties in California that are more than 15 years old. In the poll, 37% of voters said they support the measure, while 37% are opposed and 26% are undecided.
Overall, the poll makes clear that with mail-in ballots expected to arrive within the next two weeks, a relatively high number of likely voters remain undecided on all four measures.
"It tends to be the case that undecided voters are more likely to vote no in the end," Schickler said. "If you're not sure about a proposition, I think more often than not, voters tend to decide to vote no."
Schickler noted that with so much attention on the presidential race, "it's hard for these propositions to break through and get the kind of attention that would really help voters decide where they stand."
The Berkeley IGS poll was administered in Spanish and English from Sept. 9-15 among 7,198 registered voters, 5,942 of whom were considered likely to vote. The results are accurate within plus or minus 2 percentage points.