USC Dornsife Online Survey Experiment Results
Results offer new insights on California voter opinions on gas prices, taxes, contraception and online piracy.
The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences today announced the results of its new experiment in online political polling, which found that California voters do not blame President Obama for the rising gasoline prices that they have experienced.
Although the new online survey does reflect findings from a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted by phone that shows state voters give Obama poor marks for the way he has handled the issue, the more detailed series of online questions indicates Californians are much more likely to blame oil companies and unrest in the Middle East for high gas prices than either the president or U.S. Congress.
The USC Dornsife online survey found that 63 percent of voters disapprove of President Obama’s handling of gas prices, and 27 percent approved. But only 13 percent of California voters said Obama was to blame for higher gas prices and about 6 percent blamed the U.S. Congress. In contrast, 21 percent of voters blamed “problems in the Middle East” and 38 percent blamed oil companies.
"We are extremely proud that the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times phone poll was the most accurate in California during the last election cycle, and we intend to match that accomplishment this year," said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. "This online experiment is designed to complement our existing phone poll and to help us understand the way California voters are thinking in even more detail. The online survey gives us the ability to ask more questions than a phone poll, to explore the opinions of specific voter groups in greater detail, and to provide more information to our respondents before they offer their opinions on key issues."
"We look forward to using this online experiment as a valuable supplement to the respected USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times phone survey, and we hope that the people of California find it to be a valuable resource as well," Schnur said.
The USC Dornsife online survey experiment — a distinct project from the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll — interviewed 1,874 registered voters from March 19-21, 2012. The online survey provided an opportunity to examine the benefits of online polling and to ask even more in-depth questions on a range of political and public policy issues including health care and contraception, ballot initiatives and tax increases, and technology companies and online piracy.
The results of the online survey experiment, conducted on behalf of USC Dornsife by California polling firms M4 Strategies and Tulchin Research, also show that despite Rick Santorum's assertions that he might have prevailed had Newt Gingrich dropped out of the GOP primary, the Pennsylvania Senator would not have benefitted more than Mitt Romney in the Golden State.
Of Republican voters who support Gingrich, 50 percent said they would shift their support Romney should Gingrich drop out, compared to 39 percent who would have supported Santorum and 10 percent who are undecided, according to the USC Dornsife online survey.
Overall, when asked who they would support if their favored candidate dropped out of the primary, 25 percent of Republican voters said Romney, 28 percent said Santorum, 16 percent said Gingrich, 9 percent said Ron Paul — and 23 percent said they were undecided or would support none of these candidates.
"Just as survey research in the 1970s was all by mail and eventually moved to phones, we are at a similar pivot point in the transition from phone to online polling," said Ben Tulchin, founder and president of Tulchin Research. "This is the research methodology of the future, and we are working to accelerate the curve and make online research the standard for today."
On other issues, including likely California ballot initiatives that would seek to raise taxes, results from the online survey experiment and the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll were outside the margin of error.
“It was very encouraging to see that the approval numbers in the online survey are basically dead on with the phone,” said Chris Condon of M4 Strategies. “But one of the major benefits of the online survey is that respondents read the initiatives, which is how they will see it on the actual ballot. On the phone, the option of “both” is hidden, and it forces people to make a choice if they don’t know better.”
Voters on both surveys were asked generally about how they would close the budget deficit: either through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, or through cuts to government programs alone. In the online survey experiment, voters were about 14 points less likely than in the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll to say they wanted combination approach involving tax increases, and about 6 points less likely to say they thought the budget should be balanced exclusively by cutting from government programs.
The result highlights a key difference between the online public opinion survey and the established USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll: in the online survey experiment, 14 percent of voters answered “both” when presented with the two choices on how to close California’s budget deficit. In the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, only 1 percent answered “both” to the same question.
In the online survey experiment, voters were split 35-39 about whether they preferred a combination approach or cuts alone. In the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, voters were split, but leaned the other way: 49 percent of voters said they want a combination approach to closing the state deficit, and 45 percent wanted spending cuts alone.
"There’s no question that the future of public opinion research will be conducted over the Internet, and we’re looking forward to learning more about how these technologies can provide an even more in-depth and timely assessment of what Californians think about the issues that matter to them,” Schnur said. “This important experiment in conducting public opinion polling online will help us provide even more information about California voters and the future of the state. We are excited to partner on this opportunity to explore how polling can more closely capture voter sentiment, and we fully expect that people will be watching us closely to learn from our experiences.”
Other results from the online survey experiment include:
OBAMA’S FAVORABILITY ON JOBS, TAXES
On favorability ratings for President Obama, California voters in the USC Dornsife online survey experiment gave Obama an overall favorability rating of 57-39, within the margin of error of the 62-36 favorability rating for Obama in the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll.
On a list of issues, Obama’s approval ratings are similar between voters in the USC Dornsife online survey and voters in the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll:
|Approval-Disapproval for President Obama on:|
|USC Dornsife online survey
||USC Dornsife/LATimes Poll
|The federal deficit
In both the online and phone surveys, a majority of Californians approved of the job Obama is doing on women's health. In an additional question on the USC Dornsife online survey experiment, two out of three voters (67 percent) said health insurance plans should cover contraception, and 25 percent opposed it.
A majority of voters (51 percent) also support allowing religious-affiliated employers to opt out of covering insurance, instead requiring insurers to provide contraception coverage. Thirty-two percent oppose this recent modification to the healthcare law, according to the online survey experiment.
VOTERS SUPPORT BALLOT INITATIVE TO RAISE SALES AND INCOME TAX
On November ballot initiatives, a large majority of voters support a proposal backed by Governor Jerry Brown to increase sales tax by one-quarter of a cent and income tax on people earning more than $250,000, according to the USC Dornsife online survey experiment.
Sixty-three percent of voters on the online survey (compared to 64 percent in the phone poll) support Brown’s proposal to close California’s budget deficit and protect public education. Thirty percent of voters on the online survey (compared to 33 percent on the phone poll) oppose Brown’s plan.
The USC Dornsife online survey experiment also polled voters using the official title and summary of the proposal backed by Brown:
|Support for likely CA November ballot initiative
|USC Dornsife online survey
||USC Dornsife/LATimes Poll
|Gov. Brown's proposal based on description
||Support: 63 percent
Oppose: 30 percent
|Support: 64 percent
Oppose: 33 percent
|Gov. Brown's proposal based on official title and summary
||Support: 60 percent
Oppose: 30 percent
|Molly Munger's plan based on description
||Support: 24 percent
Oppose: 67 percent
|Support: 32 percent
Oppose: 64 percent
In addition, voters were asked whether the support or opposition of certain individuals or groups would influence their decision on tax proposals. About 42 percent said Brown would influence their decision, including 11 percent who said it would influence them "a great deal." Forty-four percent said Brown's opinion would not influence their vote.
As for other groups, 56 percent of voters said the opinions of small business owners would influence their vote on tax proposals, 47 percent said local business owners would have influence, and 31 percent said the California Chamber of Commerce would hold sway. Forty-fve percent said the California Teacher's Association would influence their vote, and 48 percent said the opinions of teachers would influence team.
About 34 percent said unions would influence their decision on the ballot propositions to raise taxes, and 38 percent said public employees would hold sway. Thirty-three percent said the opinion of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Association would influence their vote on tax initiatives.
ONLINE PRIVACY AND COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
Voters sampled online were slightly less worried than voters sampled by phone by the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll about internet and smartphone companies collecting their personal information, including contact information and web browsing history.
About 78 percent of voters in the USC Dornsife online survey experiment said they are concerned about companies collecting their personal information, compared to 82 percent of voters surveyed by phone for the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. In both polls, 17 percent of voters said they are not concerned.
Both voters in the USC Dornsife online survey experiment and the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll gave technology companies overall low trust ratings on a scale of zero to ten, with zero meaning that “you don’t trust them at all to be responsible with your information and keep it secure” and ten meaning “you trust them completely”:
|Consumer trust of technology companies on scale of zero-10
|USC Dornsife online survey
||USC Dornsife/LATimes Poll
When asked via the online survey experiment about collection of personal information, 57 percent of voters said it is an invasion of privacy, 8 percent said it improves their online experience and 24 percent said both are true.
In the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, the number of respondents answering “both” was 21 percentage points lower: 78 percent of voters said collection of personal information is an invasion of privacy, 13 percent said it improved their experience and 3 percent said both are true.
STOP ONLINE PIRACY ACT
Voters in the USC Dornsife online survey experiment were also much more likely to answer “both” when asked about SOPA, a proposal that would stop many websites from making content available without permission from the creator.
In the USC Dornsife online survey experiment, 16 percent of voters oppose SOPA, saying it will slow innovation, and 44 percent support the act, saying it protects intellectual property. Sixteen percent said both arguments are true.
When presented with the same choice by phone for the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, twice as many voters oppose SOPA as in the online survey experiment: 32 percent of voters oppose SOPA, 56 percent support it, and 3 percent say they agree with both sides.
The USC Dornsife online survey experiment interviewed 1,874 registered voters in California from March 19-21, 2012. The full sample carries a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percent.
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