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The Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy (IATPP) at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, released a bipartisan statewide poll tested the public’s appetite for reforms that advance transparency in California.  This survey of 800 likely California voters was conducted from March 31, 2015 to April 2, 2015. Five reform proposals were tested in coordination with Republican polling firm SmithJohnson Research and Democratic polling firm Tulchin Research.

Executive Summary

Against a backdrop of polarized views on California’s general direction, the public shows strong bipartisan support for legislative reforms that make government more transparent and accessible.  California voters want to know more about the relationship between special interest groups and their elected officials.  They also want to see greater transparency in the way the Legislature conducts its business, including disclosures about how legislative members spend their tax dollars and making sure state government documents are easily accessible and searchable online.

Support for the proposed reforms was uniform across the partisan and ideological spectra. Importantly, the popularity of these reforms was not just superficial, but survived well-formed opposition arguments.

To view the complete survey summary click here.

Reforms Tested

Searchable Documents: Massive volumes of government documents exist online without the ability to do a keyword search to easily locate information important to the public. When asked about requiring all documents, including the state budget, to be available online with their content easily searchable with a search engine similar Google, California voter support reached 91%.

Legislative Spending: In a recent PIRG Report that graded every state on government spending transparency, California came in dead last, receiving an “F.” When asked about providing a detailed quarterly report of all legislative spending, including travel, staff, perks, mailings and committees,California voter support reached 90%.

72 Hour Wait Period: Bills are sometimes changed at the last minute leaving little or no time for the press, the public, and even other legislators to review what the bill says. Some argue that this weakens the ability of interest groups to influence the bill, while others argue that it strengthens the influence of interest groups. Others argue that the flexibility is necessary in times of crisis and that it prevented California from defaulting on its debts during the 2010 budget impasse.  When asked about requiring proposed new laws to be made available to the public in writing at least 72 hours before a final vote is taken, California voter support reached 89%.

Video Recording: Currently many legislative hearings are not video recorded. Compounding the problem, no minutes, transcripts or list of participants are produced for the public to review. When asked about requiring all public hearings in the Legislature to be video recorded and made available to the public on the Internet within 24 hours after the hearing, California voter support reached 86%.

LAO Analysis: Currently, analyses of proposed new laws are performed by partisan staff members who work for politicians. These analyses are very powerful in shaping the dialogue and public debate on issues before the Legislature. When asked about requiring that the official analyses of proposed new laws be done by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, instead of legislative staff,California voter support reached 82%.

Survey Methodology

This survey of 800 likely California voters was conducted by the bi-partisan team of SmithJohnson Research and Tulchin Research from March 31 to April 2, 2015. The sampling error for this sample size is +/-3.5% at the 95% confidence level.

Survey Results

To view the press release click here.

To view the complete survey summary click here.

To view the toplines click here.

To view the crosstabs click here.

Digital Democracy Website Features Memo

In addition to the the surveying the public on the various transparency reform proposals, Tulchin Relearch and SmithJohnson Research queried the public on their interest in technological tools to facilitate making the government and the legislative process more accessible to the public. In repsonse to this survey, voters expressed real interest in using technological tools to keep track of what is happening in state government. These encouraging findings were even more applicable among California voters who are the most engaged in the democratic process and have a history of taking action in interacting with their government and civic affairs. Favorable opinions of the technological tools tested in the survey were shared by voters of all parties as Democrats, independents and Republicans all held similarly positive views of the tools.

To view the complete survey summary click here.