Plan to restrict union donations holds lead

Voters also back effort to revamp bilingual program

Seven of 10 California voters favor a proposed initiative on the June ballot aimed at curbing the ability of labor unions to make campaign contributions, according to the latest Field Poll.

Nearly the same number of Californians also would vote for a measure to largely scrap bilingual education in public schools and replace it with a short-term English immersion program, the pollsters found.

And on a proposition to limit spending on administrative expenses for public schools, the Field Poll released Monday reported that sentiment is running about 2-1 in favor of the measure.

A similar poll conducted in December showed nearly identical results, said poll director Mark DiCamillo. Many of those interviewed confronted the issues for the first time when the pollster called, he added.

“The results show voters haven’t focused on the issues yet, and the numbers are likely to change a lot” as campaigns get under way, he said. “These will be expensive campaigns and, among the propositions, will generate the most debate pro and con.”

The labor measure would prohibit unions from spending a member’s dues on political activity unless the member gives written permission each year. Gov. Pete Wilson, who is sponsoring the measure along with various business and Republican interests, has said the decision on how members’ dues are spent on politics “must be . . . made by the union member, not by union bosses.”

Support for the measure drops as voters learn more about it and realize it’s “a cynical attempt to silence unions,” said Judith Barish of the California Labor Federation.

The latest poll reported 36 percent of those sampled had heard about the initiative. After hearing an abstract of the official summary of the measure, 71 percent of likely voters said they would vote yes, 22 percent said they were opposed and 7 percent were undecided. In a December poll of registered voters, 72 percent said yes, 22 percent said no, and 6 percent were undecided.

Support was strong among both Republicans and Democrats, and union members and non-members, DiCamillo said.

Eighty-two percent of those polled had heard something about the bilingual measure, pushed by Silicon Valley businessman Ron Unz. The initiative would replace existing education programs with an immersion or crash-course English program that would be limited to one year for most students. Opponents contend the measure is too inflexible and could be harmful to many of the 1.3 million California schoolchildren with limited English skills.

Last week’s survey showed 66 percent of those polled would vote yes, 27 percent would vote no and 7 percent were undecided. In December, the numbers were 69 percent yes, 24 percent yes and 7 percent no.

Respondents in every ethnic group supported the measure except for Latinos, who were about evenly divided, DiCamillo said. Forty-six percent were in favor, 45 percent opposed.

Only 28 percent of those polled had heard of the measure to limit spending on school administration. The initiative, sponsored by the United Teachers of Los Angeles union, would cap administrative spending at 5 percent for each school district budget. Opponents include a union for non-teaching school employees and school administration groups.

Of those read a ballot summary, 53 percent said they would vote yes, 27 percent said they would vote no, and 20 percent were undecided.

Comments are closed.