LOS ANGELES — July 21, 2011 — California voters are split about new legislation that would require Internet retailers to begin collecting sales tax on online purchases, according to the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll. This week, opponents of the so-called “Amazon tax” were given approval by Secretary of State Debra Bowen to begin collecting signatures for a ballot referendum to overturn the measure.
Conducted July 6-17, 2011, the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll shows 46 percent of voters favoring the online sales tax as a revenue source to help balance the budget and pay for state services. Forty-nine percent opposed the measure, which would raise taxes and could hurt local businesses who sell products through online retailers such as Amazon.com.
“At this point, Californians are evenly divided on whether online purchases should be taxed. This could be one of the most expensive campaigns in California history, and neither side starts with a clear advantage,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.
The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 2.52 percentage points.
Non-white voters are slightly more likely than White voters to oppose the tax. Among White voters, 47 percent favor the tax and 49 percent oppose it. Among non-white voters, 43 percent favor the tax and 52 percent oppose it, including 57 percent of Black voters and 52 percent of Latino voters.
Younger voters are also more likely than older voters to oppose the tax. Fifty-nine percent of young men oppose the tax, as do a majority – 52 percent – of young women. (37 percent of young men and 45 percent of young women support the tax.)
Overall, 55 percent of young voters opposed taxing online purchases by California residentsand 41 percent support it. In contrast, 43 percent of voters over the age of 50 oppose taxing online purchases, and 52 percent support it.
Opposition to the sales tax correlated to online shopping habits. Among voters who do most of their shopping online, 61 percent oppose taxing online purchases and 39 percent support it.
But a significant majority of California voters — 82 percent — currently do little or no shopping online. Among voters who never shop online, 48 percent support charging sales tax for online purchases, and 45 percent oppose it.
BROWN'S APPROVAL STEADY DESPITE UNPOPULAR BUDGET
Despite voter unhappiness with the new California budget, approval ratings for Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature have increased slightly over the last few months, according to results from the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll, conducted in the weeks immediately following the passing of the budget.
Forty-seven percent of voters oppose the budget, including 25 percent who oppose it “strongly.” Forty-one percent of voters favor the budget, with 7 percent favoring it “strongly.”
When asked whether the budget was fair or unfair to people like themselves, 34 percent said the budget is fair and a majority — 55 percent — said the budget is unfair.
Latino voters were among the most likely to think the budget is unfair, with 68 percent saying the budget is unfair and 24 percent saying it is fair, a margin of 43 percentage points. Among White voters, the margin is 16 points: 53 percent think the California state budget is unfair and 36 percent think it is fair.
Since April 2011, Brown’s approval among the state’s voters has risen slightly from 44 percent to 48 percent, with the percentage of voters disapproving of Brown falling from 33 to 30 percent over the same period.
Brown's approval rating is 49-31 among White voters, 48-28 among Black voters, 46-33 among Latino voters, and 37-32 among Asian American voters.
Approval for the state legislature, which was as low as 18 percent in March 2010, climbed to 21 percent in April 2011 and to 25 percent in the most recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.
“Nobody loves the budget, nobody even likes it, but they give politicians some credit for getting it done,” Schnur said.
But 59 percent of California voters still disapprove of the job being done by the California state legislature. An overwhelming majority of voters – 83 percent – said the state controller was right to have docked legislators’ pay for failing to pass a balanced budget by June 15.
This was the first year the California budget could be passed by simple majority in the state legislature rather than two-thirds vote. Compared to previous years, 44 percent of voters said they thought the state’s budget process went more smoothly this time, 31 percent thought it went about the same, and 14 percent thought passing the budget went less smoothly this year.
CALIFORNIANS OPPOSE “TRIGGER’ CUTS
California voters overwhelmingly oppose so-called “trigger” cuts in the new state budget that would go into effect if the state does not receive an additional $4 billion in unanticipated revenue.
Voters are split about whether the expectation of additional revenue is reasonable or a “gimmick” that may force deeper cuts in the future. Forty-one percent of voters said it was the right thing to do based on the $1.2 billion in additional revenue already collected by the state, and 44 percent agreed with the statement that it is a “gimmick.”
Sixty-four percent of voters overall said the trigger cuts would be unacceptable, including 62 percent of White voters and 76 percent of Latino voters. These cuts could include K-12 education, which has so far been spared.
As for cuts that have already occurred, voters are more evenly divided. Thirty-four percent of voters said that spending cuts in the new budget went “too far” and 33 percent said they are “not far enough.” Twenty percent said the cuts are “about right.”
When asked about specific cuts, including to salaries for most state employees and to almost every sector of government except K-12 education, voters were split 48-48 on whether the cuts were acceptable in order to close the budget deficit.
Latino voters are much more likely than voters overall to think cuts to government services — including health care, public safety, welfare services and higher education — are unacceptable, with 59 percent opposing the cuts and 37 percent supporting the cuts in order to close the budget deficit.
A majority of voters said it was acceptable that the new budget raised vehicle registration fees and fees on people who live in wildfire-prone areas but did not extend other recently expired taxes. Fifty-three percent of voters said these budget measures are acceptable and 43 percent opposed.
The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted July 6-17, 2011, and surveyed 1,507 registered voters in California. The poll includes a significant oversample of Latino voters, interviewed in both Spanish and English.
More results from the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll will be made available and published in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, July 23 and Monday, July 25, including findings from the latest poll about:
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.