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USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Press Release

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Majority of Californians Would Oppose High-Speed Rail if Given Another Chance to Vote on It

1 in 3 Californians say high-speed rail would be their preferred mode of travel between Southern California and the Bay Area.

Media Contacts:
Suzanne Wu at (213) 740-0252 or suzanne.wu@usc.edu
Merrill Balassone at (213) 740-6156 or balasson@usc.edu
Michelle Salzman at (213) 821-9311 or msalzman@dornsife.usc.edu

 

A phone conference discussing the results of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of California politics, including voter opinions on high speed rail and Propositions 28 and 29, is SUNDAY, June 3 at 11:00 a.m. PT. Domestic call-in number: (800) 230-1059. International: +01 (612) 234-9959. To reserve a line, contact Suzanne Wu at suzanne.wu@usc.edu.



LOS ANGELES — June 2, 2012 — Just weeks before the California legislature must decide the fate of the nation’s first high-speed rail project, a majority of Californians say the state has bigger priorities right now and they would veto the rail project if given another chance to vote on it, according to the results of the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

In 2008, California voters approved a ballot proposition to borrow $9 billion to help fund a high-speed rail line, which is supported by Governor Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama. In the latest poll, conducted May 17-21, 59 percent of voters said they would oppose the plan if given another chance to vote on it, while 33 percent said they would support funding high-speed rail.

"California voters have clearly reconsidered their support for high-speed rail," said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "They want the chance to vote again — and they want to vote no. The growing budget deficit is making Californians hesitant about spending so much money on a project like this one when they're seeing cuts to public education and law enforcement. But they also seem to be wary as to whether state government can run a big speed rail system effectively."



As proposed, the 520-mile train will go through the Central Valley, eventually connecting the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles. The fastest trip between the two largest cities in the state would take 2 hours and 40 minutes, and cost about $120 one way.

Overall, 55 percent of California voters said they want another chance to weigh in on whether the state should borrow money for high-speed rail, agreeing with the statement that “the plan for the project has changed, the total costs have increased and there are doubts that high speed rail can actually turn a profit.”

In contrast, 36 percent of voters said they should not be asked to go back to the ballot box, agreeing with the statement that “a new vote could halt any planned construction, and even though the plan has changed, the intent is the same, voters have already committed funding and the project will finish earlier than projected.”

By region, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area were the most likely to support high-speed rail. In the Bay Area, 47 percent of voters said they would vote to fund high-speed rail, and 45 percent said they would oppose it. In L.A. County, 37 percent of voters support high-speed rail, and 56 percent oppose it. In the Central Valley, 21 percent of voters support high-speed rail, and 66 percent oppose it.

A majority of voters — 52 percent — said they had not travelled between Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area in the last year. Six percent have made the trip in the last year by plane, and 28 percent have driven by car.

About one in three Californians said high-speed rail would be their preferred mode of transportation between the Bay Area and Southern California: 33 percent of Californians said they would prefer to take high-speed rail if they needed to make the trip, compared to 31 percent who would prefer to drive, and 29 percent who prefer to fly.

"Californians aren't necessarily against the idea of high-speed rail. But they don't want to spend all that money right now, and they don't trust the state to make the trains run on time," Schnur said.

Just one percent of voters said they would use the high-speed rail line between Southern California and the Bay Area to travel once a week. Four percent said they would use it monthly; 24 percent said they would use it several times a year; and 69 percent of Californians said they would use the high-speed rail line rarely or never.

Of Californians who said they would support high-speed rail if put to another vote, 59 percent said they would use the train at least several times a year, and 40 percent of rail supporters said they would never or rarely use the train. In contrast, 11 percent of opponents of funding high-speed rail said they would use the train at least several times a year, and 88 percent said they would never or rarely use it.

Overall, 68 percent of California voters who said they would ride the train several times a year support high-speed rail, and 21 percent oppose it. Of those who said they would never take high-speed rail, 11 percent support the project, and 82 percent oppose it.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted from May 17-21, 2012 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,002 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

For more results and methodology of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, click here.

FOR MEDIA:
These results from the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, and additional findings on high speed rail, online gambling, and Propositions 28 and 29, will be discussed in a phone conference on Sunday, June 3 at 11 a.m. PT, with representatives from the University of Southern California and polling firms Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and American Viewpoint.

Call-in numbers:

United States: (800) 230-1059
International: +01 (612) 234-9959

Space is limited. To reserve a line, contact Suzanne Wu at suzanne.wu@usc.edu.

In addition, Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, will be guest-tweeting from the Twitter account @uscelection2012 about the results of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and election news.

WEB SITE: /poll
TWITTER: @usclatpoll

About the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll: The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is a series of statewide public opinion polls in California, designed to survey voter attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues.

Conducted at regular intervals throughout the year, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is one of the largest polls of registered voters in the state and has been widely cited, helping to inform the public and to encourage discourse on key political and policy issues.

About USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university. The largest, oldest and most diverse of USC's 19 schools, USC Dornsife is composed of more than 30 academic departments and dozens of research centers and institutes. USC Dornsife is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 750 faculty members with expertise across the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

About the Los Angeles Times:
The Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of 2 million and 3 million on Sunday, and a combined print and interactive local weekly audience of 4.5 million. The fast-growing latimes.com draws over 10 million unique visitors monthly.