Recently, a USC Dornsife/ LA Times poll was released, which amongst other things, gauged Californians' interest in increasing taxes under Gov. Brown's revised ballot initiative. As a result of the poll, headlines proclaimed things like "Strong majority backs Jerry Brown's tax-hike Initiative" and contained opening statements such as "Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they supported the measure that the governor hopes to place on the November ballot."
However, once one digs a little deeper into the poll questions itself and its findings, it is readily apparent that the claimed support of 64% is likely overstated.
First, keep in mind that the relevant poll question was question # 41 on the telephone, to which 750 people responded. This means that in all likelihood, respondents were on the phone for nearly 30 minutes by the time this question was asked. (I'm not really sure who is willing to sit on the phone for 30 minutes to answer these types of questions, but apparently people do.)
Second, where did this 64% percent figure come from? Well, its made of two components. In reality, 39% of respondents said they "Strongly favored" the ballot initiative, whereas 25% said that they "Somewhat favored" the initiative. To me "somewhat favoring" is no guarantee that that person will actually vote in favor of it come election time.
Third, the poll question itself is confusing and not entirely accurate. The question reads as follows (bear in mind that this is being read over the phone):
"Increase the state sales tax by half a cent for four years and increase the state income tax rate for people earning more than 250,000 dollars a year for five years, gradually increasing the rate for higher incomes, with a two percentage point increase on those earning more than $500,000 dollars a years. As much as 7 billion dollars a year would come from these new taxes. The money would go towards public schools and community colleges and to local governments for their new public safety responsibilities"
Not only is the question long-winded, but it creates the impression that all these tax revenues are going to go towards schools and public safety. However, that isn't necessarily the case as one of the biggest complaints against the Brown plan is that the funds go to the general fund.
California's may or may not support Brown's tax plan, but to cite to this poll to argue that 64% of Californians support the plan is misguided.