Tonight's new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California is, as always, chock full of items that are worth mulling over: a bitterly divided state over the issue of gay marriage, lousy approval ratings for the governor and legislators, and a better sense of who voted for whom in the race for the White House.
A lot of that will be covered by the rest of the news biz, which sent me looking for some other morsels, like this one: we Californians still love our initiatives.
Maybe not individual ballot initiatives, but the system itself. PPIC found 67% of those surveyed were either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with the initiative process. That's consistent with their polling from two years ago, but a much warmer and fuzzy feeling about initiatives than voters expressed after Governor Schwarzenegger's 2005 special election.
The most satisified subgroup? Independent voters, of which 73% surveyed give the process a thumbs up.
That being said, it's still interesting how many grumblings there are about a process people like. All subgroups agree there could be changes to the initiative system, though Democrats (42%) want major changes more than anyone else. 51% of respondents overall say there was too much money spent on initiative campaigns in 2008, and almost a third "strongly" agreed that the wording of the measures was too complicated.
So what would folks change? 84% said there should be more disclosure of campaign money, including signature gathering. And 72% of those surveyed believe the opposing sides in an initiative campaign should have to participate in a series... a series... of televised debates (I have to believe the euphoria of a fascinating presidential election has some folks forgetting what they really watch when the clicker is in their hand).
It's hard to know why the love affair (or maybe love/hate affair) with initiatives still continues, but here's one guess, based on info in this poll: when asked who they trust more to make public policy -- lawmakers in Sacramento or voters at the ballot box -- PPIC's respondents chose... themselves. Using the scores from two levels of trust, it's 37% for elected officials, 52% for Joe and Jane Public.
That may say more than anything about why direct democracy is alive and well in California.