Support for Campaign Finance Reform Improperly Measured by Poorly Worded L.A. Times Poll
For Immediate Release: October 17, 1997
CONTACT: David Almasi (202) 507-6398 or DAlmasi@nationalcenter.org
A poll published in the Los Angeles Times purporting to find public opposition to a proposed state campaign finance reform initiative was poorly worded and cannot be used as a proper gauge of public sentiment toward the initiative, says a Washington-based public policy organization. Previous polling with clearly stated questions, on the other hand, indicates overwhelming support for the initiative.
The Campaign Reform Initiative, which is expected to appear on the June, 1998 California primary ballot, will: 1) prohibit political contributions from foreigners; 2) prohibit employers from making automatic payroll deductions for political purposes without the written authorization of an employee; and 3) prohibit labor unions from using member dues for political purposes without the written authorization of the member.
Opposition found by the Times October 15 is in sharp contrast to a poll conducted in March, 1997 by Arnold Steinberg & Associates. That poll, which found very strong support for the Campaign Reform Initiative, contained a very descriptive line of questioning that could not be mistaken. To compare:
Times Poll (1396 polled): "Would you vote for or against an initiative that would require union members to approve part of their dues to be used for political purposes?"
Results: vote for 33% vote against 59% don't know 8%
Steinberg & Associates (800 polled): "Unions make political contributions with money deducted from a union member's paycheck. This ballot initiative would require an employer to receive written authorization from a union member before making such a deduction for a political contribution. Thinking about this information, would you . . ."
Results: vote for 75.9% vote against 20.3% don't know 3.9%
"The question the L.A. Times used to measure support for the Campaign Reform Initiative could easily be read as strengthening the current system where union dues are used for political purposes without giving members a choice in how it is spent," said David W. Almasi, Director of Publications and Media Relations for The National Center for Public Policy Research. "When people are informed of this practice and given an alternative, as the Steinberg & Associates poll did, public support swings strongly in favor of the Initiative."
"Many people who support the Campaign Reform Initiative were probably recorded in that poll as opposing it because of the poor wording of the question," said National Center President Amy Ridenour. "Considering the shocking difference between wording and results of the two polls, there is no reason to consider what the Times found to be the true feelings of the people."
For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or DAlmasi@nationalcenter.org.