In a dramatic turnaround, support for Proposition 226 has fallen below 50 percent, and opposition to the union dues initiative is steadily growing, according to a Field Poll released Thursday.
Another ballot measure, Proposition 223, which would impose a limit on administrative expenses for school districts, also appears to be losing ground, said poll director Mark DiCamillo.
Support also has slipped for Proposition 227, the measure to largely eliminate bilingual education, but that initiative still has strong support, DiCamillo said.
A November poll on Proposition 226 found the measure favored by 72 percent of those surveyed, and support was high even among union households. The latest poll showed 45 percent planned to vote for the initiative, 47 percent were opposed and 8 percent were undecided.
It was the first poll in which the “no” vote was higher than the “yes” vote for the initiative, which would require unions to get written permission annually from each member before spending any portion of the member’s dues on politics.
The split was highly partisan, DiCamillo said, with Republicans favoring Proposition 226 and with movement to the “no” side by Democrats and members of union households. He said the initiative is “definitely in the throes of a change in public opinion.”
“Polls are a snapshot in time, and four polls have showed the momentum is all in one direction — to the ‘no’ side,” DiCamillo added. “In previous elections where there was similar momentum, the results imply that movement will be in the same direction between now and Election Day.”
Opponents say Proposition 226 is intended to reduce the flow of union money to causes and candidates favored by working people.
Gov. Pete Wilson, chairman of the Yes on 226 campaign, noted that a recent Los Angeles Times poll showed 51 percent of likely voters favored it.
“The race is a statistical dead heat,” he said Thursday. “We are pleased to note that after an unprecedented negative advertising blitz (against the initiative) in excess of $20 million. . . . We will be investing heavily in our own television presentation in the remaining week of the campaign.”
But Judith Barish of the California Labor Federation said opponents have been “predicting this change (in support for the initiative) for months. When voters learn the real purpose of 226 is to weaken the voice of working people and promote a right-wing agenda, they no longer favor 226.”
Proposition 223, which would limit school administrative spending to 5 percent of any district’s budget, also registered a higher “no” than “yes” vote for the first time in the latest poll. DiCamillo reported that 40 percent indicated support, 43 percent were opposed and 17 percent were undecided.
The campaign for Proposition 223 has had little visibility to date, but foes have been telling voters in mailers and ads that its “arbitrary” 5 percent limit favors large districts while hurting small and rural districts where administrative expenses are higher.
Proposition 227 would replace most bilingual education programs with a one-year intensified course in English. The latest poll showed 61 percent favored the measure — down about 10 percentage points from polls in March and April — and 8 percent were undecided. The strongest support came from Republicans, 78 percent of whom said they favor the measure,
Only 86 Latinos were interviewed in the random sample of voters, and that was not enough to draw conclusions about the mood of that segment of the electorate, DiCamillo said. Nonetheless, 52 percent said they planned to vote “yes,” 38 percent were opposed and 10 percent were undecided.
Sheri Annis, spokeswoman for the “yes” campaign, said she was pleased the overall numbers “continue to show that the initiative is extremely likely to pass.” But Holli Thier of the No on 227 campaign said the 10-point drop in support shows “when voters know what’s in Proposition 227, they are opposing it.”