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Support for Prop. 30 Slips Following Newsom's Opposition Blitz, New Poll Shows

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An electric vehicle charging station that says, on the pavement, 'EV Charging Only'
A Power Up fast-charger station for electric vehicles in Pasadena. Proposition 30, on the November ballot, would raise billions in revenue for additional electric vehicle infrastructure and incentives in California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Support among likely voters for Proposition 30, a clean air initiative that would tax the wealthiest Californians to pay for electric car rebates, has fallen well below the 50% it needs to pass, according to a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, or PPIC.

Last July, a similar survey found that nearly two-thirds of likely voters favored the measure, and it still maintained a strong majority as recently as September. But support has slid markedly since then, with the latest survey showing just 41% of likely voters still in favor of it — a change largely attributed to Gov. Gavin Newsom's well-funded efforts to derail the measure.

“There are a lot of things that people liked about [Proposition 30], but they're just hearing too many things that come from people that they trust that raise questions about whether this is the kind of climate change bill that they should support,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC's president and CEO.

Newsom’s staunch opposition to Proposition 30 — promoted in a recent blitz of mailings and TV ads — has him siding with conservative anti-tax and business groups and billionaires who have collectively spent more than $10 million to defeat it. Some of the biggest funders of the No campaign include Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Michael Moritz and Oakland A’s owner John Fisher.

Newsom has argued Proposition 30 would disrupt the state’s finances and is unnecessary in California, which has already committed billions from its record budget surplus to funding electric vehicle initiatives. He has called the measure a corporate tax grab on the part of Lyft, the largest donor to the Yes campaign.

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But environmental groups who devised Proposition 30 say it's a vital investment in the fight against climate change and bad air quality. If passed, the measure would increase state income taxes — by 1.75% — on Californians who make more than $2 million a year, raising up to an estimated $5 billion annually. The state would be required to spend 80% of that revenue on electric-vehicle rebates and on the installation of charging stations in public places and residences. The remaining funds would go toward wildfire mitigation efforts.

The Coalition for Clean Air, a key backer of the measure, was quick to refute the latest PPIC polling results, insisting in a statement that “independent polls, as well as private polling, have shown dramatically different results than this survey.”

The group noted that the California Democratic Party and the American Lung Association, along with a spate of environmental groups and labor unions, including those representing firefighters, still support the measure and “are working tirelessly in this election for the benefits of clean air, climate action and reducing wildfires that will result from the initiative.”

Newsom’s sway with voters, in spite of the pessimism most Californians have about the economy and the state’s future, is also evident in the governor’s race. With voters already casting ballots, Newsom leads his opponent, state Sen. Brian Dahle, a Lassen County Republican, by a nearly 20-point margin, the PPIC poll found.

“What's really remarkable about the findings of this October survey are that despite the fact that majorities of Californians think that the state is headed in the wrong direction, and an overwhelming majority feel that the nation is headed in the wrong direction, that Newsom leads by a substantial margin,” Baldassare said.

"This is a reflection of the fact that we are very polarized in terms of the electorate in this blue state, with 90% of Democrats saying that, that they're sticking with the Democrat and 90% of Republicans saying that, that they're going to go with the Republican," said Baldassare.

The poll also found that abortion is the most important issue to voters, especially Democrats and independents. And among the 10 most competitive House districts in California, it found that likely voters favor the Democratic candidate over the Republican by a whopping 22% advantage — in spite of the oft-reported headwinds facing Democrats over major issues like inflation, gas prices and crime.

"With a majority of likely voters saying that they approve of President Biden, this is a very different political climate in California than we're seeing nationally," Baldassare noted. "And as a result, in those competitive districts, the Democrats are ahead of the Republicans by a sizable margin."

He added that the high level of importance voters are placing on abortion is also giving Democrats a lift they might not otherwise have in this midterm election.

Consistent with the findings of other recent polls, the PPIC survey showed Propositions 26 and 27 — to legalize sports betting in California — both heading for defeat, with likely voters opposing the measures by 57% and 67% respectively.

“As it turns out … relatively few people are interested in sports gambling in the state,” Baldassare said, noting the high threshold that the well-funded backers of both measures will have to clear to secure passage.

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