New Polls Show Gambling Measures Props. 26 and 27 'Foundering' With Voters

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The sign of a casino shows an arrowhead with a graphically stylized sunset and mountains inlaid in it, above text reading "WANAAHA CASINO."
The entrance to the Wanaaha Casino, owned and operated by the Bishop Paiute Tribe, is seen on Oct. 9, 2021, in Bishop.  (George Rose/Getty Images)

Despite the record $340 million spent on two gambling-related state ballot measures this campaign season, both Propositions 26 and 27 are tanking in the polls just six weeks from the end of the election.

That's according to a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies survey released Tuesday, which reached out to 8,725 registered voters in English and Spanish between September 22 and 27.

Proposition 26 is backed by 27 tribes and tribal organizations and would legalize sports betting at tribal casinos, as well as allow roulette and dice games there.

Proposition 27, which is backed by gambling websites like FanDuel and DraftKings, would legalize online betting in California.

Supporters of Proposition 26 have raised $112 million to trumpet it online and on TV, while supporters of Proposition 27 have poured in $228 million. In fact, so much has been spent on Prop. 27 that it's the most expensive ballot measure in state history.

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But even with supporters putting all their chips in on two gambling ballot measures, voters are betting "no" in overwhelming numbers.

Prop. 26 is trailing, with 31% of likely voters saying they'll vote yes, to 42% saying no. Prop. 27 is behind 27% to 53%.

In both cases, more than one-fifth of the electorate remains undecided.

“These results suggest that the sports wagering initiatives are foundering in the face of the opposition advertising campaigns," said Berkeley IGS co-director Eric Schickler, in a statement. "The lack of support among key demographic groups makes passage of each an uphill climb, at best.”

The poor outlook for Prop. 27 is a continuing trend: Another poll conducted just a few weeks before from the Public Policy Institute of California found similarly damning numbers for it — so much so, that its proponents pulled advertising from television, citing a need to refocus on "direct communication with voters."

At least two weeks later, the Berkeley IGS polling numbers are nearly identical to the PPIC numbers from a few weeks before — though the newer poll does note that voters who have seen TV ads for both measures overwhelmingly say they'll vote no, versus a more divided position from voters who haven't seen the ads.

Opposition to the two measures is also consistent across the political spectrum: Republicans, Democrats and independents alike don't favor either gambling proposition. Women oppose Prop. 26 two-to-one, while men are more divided, and younger voters tend to support it far more than older voters.

The new Berkeley IGS poll also found tough news for Proposition 30, the Lyft-backed effort to raise taxes on California millionaires to fund a "Clean Cars and Clean Air Trust Fund"; it would pay for electric vehicle rebates, statewide car-charging infrastructure, wildfire mitigation and firefighter training.

It's lagging behind a full majority, with just 49% of respondents saying they'd vote for Prop. 30, and 37% against it.

Supporters of the measure have raised more than $46 million to pass it, while the opposition has raised more than $13 million, according to the latest state records. But the timing of the survey is notable — pollsters spoke to voters about a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom came out against Prop. 30 in a television ad, calling it a "cynical scheme to grab a huge taxpayer subsidy."

Prop. 30 targets those making more than $2 million annually, and it has the backing of the California Democratic party, as well as major Democrats across the state.

As for Newsom himself as a candidate? Well, in addition to the referendum to uphold a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco (which is polling at 57% "yes"), he's one of the few statewide winners in the Berkeley IGS poll.

Newsom is enjoying a sizable lead in his gubernatorial race against state Sen. Brian Dahle, his Republican opponent, with 53% of voters supporting Newsom versus 32% for Dahle. That's virtually unchanged from a similar poll conducted by Berkeley IGS in August, showing Dahle gaining virtually no ground — not a surprise in a state with an overwhelming Democratic majority.

Perhaps an even more pernicious problem for Dahle, besides a Democratic majority state, is simple name recognition. About 52% of likely voters were "unfamiliar" with him, according to the poll.

KQED can help you get more familiar with both candidates for governor at their first — and so far only — confirmed meeting.

The gubernatorial debate will be broadcast live on October 23 at 1 p.m. on KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM, as well as streamed on KQED social channels and kqed.org. It will be televised on KQED Public Television 9 at 6 p.m.