Public support for Gov. Jerry Brown's initiative to raise taxes remains below 50 percent, but the measure no longer appears to be on a downward trajectory, leaving Brown within striking distance one week before Election Day, according to a new Field Poll.
Likely voters favor the initiative 48 percent to 38 percent, with 14 percent undecided, according to the poll.
Voters surveyed late last week and early this week were marginally more likely to favor the initiative than those surveyed in previous days. Of voters who have already cast ballots, 54 percent voted for the initiative, the poll found.
"If there was some reason to believe that this thing was sinking, you should have seen it over the course of the two weeks we were interviewing," poll director Mark DiCamillo said. "It seems to be treading water. ... All they need are two or three percentage points, and there's certainly a sufficient number of undecideds from which to get that."
The Field Poll follows two other public surveys last week showing support for Proposition 30 dipping below 50 percent. In Field's last measure, in September, Proposition 30 led 51 percent to 36 percent.
The poll released this morning comes as the Democratic governor crisscrosses the state in a final campaign push, proposing to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.
Brown's campaign has come under under a barrage of advertising from anti-tax groups, and he remains vulnerable to a rival tax measure backed by wealthy civil rights lawyer Molly Munger and the California State PTA.
Though public support for Munger's measure, Proposition 38, continues to erode, dropping seven percentage points from September to 34 percent in favor, it still threatens to siphon support from Brown.
Of likely voters who support Proposition 38, 9 percent oppose Proposition 30 or are undecided about the governor's initiative, according to the poll.
"There's a bigger constituency for supporting the public schools than either of these initiatives is getting," DiCamillo said. "Had there only been one initiative to raise taxes for the schools, it would have gotten more (support) than either of these are getting."
Among those polled was Joe Granier, an independent voter who voted for Proposition 38 but against Proposition 30.
The 55-year-old Bakersfield man said he was worried that Brown's initiative would free money up for programs other than schools, a chief criticism from the No on 30 campaign.
"It was too ambiguous as far as where the money would go," Granier said.
The No on 30 campaign has exaggerated the extent to which revenue from higher taxes could be used for programs other than schools, while Brown has downplayed the potential benefit to non-education programs.
Proposition 30 may benefit from a surge of residents registering to vote using the state's new online registration system. Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., estimated Wednesday that 800,000 voters will register to vote using the online registration system and that those voters will be disproportionately young and Democratic.
They are also largely unknown to the campaigns.
"These people have not gotten mail pieces, they've not gotten phone calls," said Mitchell, a former Democratic consultant. "The challenge (is) how does a campaign reach them before Tuesday?"
Public opinion about Proposition 30 is highly partisan, with more than two-thirds of Democrats supporting the measure and two-thirds of Republicans opposed. Independent voters favor the initiative 52 percent to 34 percent, according to the poll.
DiCamillo said public opinion about the measure is also affected by how voters view Brown, whose public approval rating held about steady at 46 percent, and to how concerned they are about school funding reductions set to be enacted if Proposition 30 fails.
A majority of likely voters who are very concerned about those cuts favor the initiative, while majorities of voters who are only somewhat concerned or not concerned plan to vote against it, according to the poll.
Lewis Woodward, 83, a retired college music teacher who voted for Proposition 30, said the state's education system can afford no further cuts.
"Our whole system, from K-12 through the college level, is just being decimated, and it's bad for democracy, and it's bad for our economy," the Modesto Democrat said.
Though Brown previously acknowledged the expectation that people "who are undecided tend to vote 'No,' " he has dismissed concerns about support for his initiative falling below 50 percent. Instead, he's focusing on the initiative's relative margin of support -- 10 percentage points over the opposition in the current poll.
"No, wait, no, it's winning," Brown told the host of ABC 7's Eyewitness Newsmakers program when she suggested otherwise in an interview that aired Sunday. "Wait, you've got it backwards. It's winning."
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Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders. ___
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