Well, duh: 960 polls well before Labor Day

The Seattle PI's Strange Bedfellows blog points out that I-960 is polling well in the middle of August. Before anyone has been given a reason to vote against it and before anyone starts to pay attention to what they're voting for three months from now.

Typically, ballot initiatives poll well in August and then nose-dive when the conversation really begins. Usually a "No on" campaign hits the street and people start thinking twice. Once the think twice, they become uncertain and its way easier to vote no on something you're uncertain about. The SB blog points out that exact thing happening to I-933 last year.

Problem is, far as I can tell from the PDC website, there is no anti-960 campaign raising any money. Yikes. 

And, just looking at this post from Mystery Pollster, polling for ballot initiatives, especially at such an early stage, is dicey. Even before you factor in the drop off over time:

...it's not surprising that polls on initiative and referenda are prone to a lot more error than other election polls.  In 2004, according to a paper by SurveyUSA's Joe Shipman, polling on ballot measures had triple the rate of error of presidential statewide polls and double the error of other statewide polls. 

This difficulty is not lost on pollsters and consultants that work on initiative and referenda campaigns.   We tend to avoid taking polling results at face value and intead interpret the results in the context of some commonly observed patterns.   For one, support for these ballot propositions typically falls as the campaign progresses.  Compare the tracking polls (looking separately at each survey organization) and it is obvious that the usual pattern is at work in California.  Support has deccreased during the campaign for virtually every proposition.  Another common pattern is that voters who go into the polling place knowing little about a proposition tend to vote no, especially when the language or issues involved are complex.  As MP was painfully reminded last fall, heuristic "rules" of this sort do not always apply, but if the percentage supporting a measure has fallen behind opposition by the final poll, it usually foretells defeat.   All of this bode poorly for Schwarzenegger's propositions.



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