California Presidential, Proposition 22,
and Proposition 24
Voting Intentions
(19-21 September)

September 27, 2020
R&WS Research Team
Ballot Initiatives | California | Consumer Behaviour | Personal Habits | US Presidential Election 2020 | Voting Intention

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Presidential Election

In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s 30% margin of victory over Donald Trump in California was the largest for a presidential candidate in the state since 1936. Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest polling in California shows Joe Biden (62%) holding a similar lead and perhaps even on track to eclipse Clinton’s record margin of victory, as he currently holds a 34% lead over Donald Trump (28%). The considerable gap has changed little since Biden’s 36% lead recorded last month. Altogether, our latest results from California (with changes from August in parenthesis) are as follows:

Joseph R. Biden (Democrat) 62% (+1)

Donald J. Trump (Republican) 28% (+3)

Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian) 1% (–)

Howie Hawkins (Green) 1% (–)

Other (Another Third Party / Write In) 1% (-1)

Don’t Know 8% (-1)

Down Ballot Elections

However, while California’s presidential result certainly matters when it comes to the popular vote, the more interesting elections in California in November will be further down the ballot. In addition to the Presidential Election, there are a number of ballot propositions that will be on California’s ballot in November. In California, ballot propositions are essentially direct referendums on specific issues, and their outcome can alter the Constitution of California or any law on the California Codes or Statutes. Ballot propositions can be introduced by either the California State Legislature, or via a petition that is signed by a number of voters.

The proportion of Californians who say they will certainly vote for the various ballot propositions has risen by 8 points since our previous polling on 9 August. Over two thirds (68%) believe they are ‘certain to vote’ on the ballot propositions as a whole.

Similar to our previous polling, we found that those aged 65 and older were the most likely to say they will be casting a vote on the various ballot propositions (83% say they certainly will), whereas those aged 18-24 were the least likely (only 41% said they would certainly vote on the propositions). Ballot propositions appear on the same ballot as the votes for the Presidency and other elected offices, so the stark difference in stated likelihood to vote may indicate that younger respondents lack familiarity with the ballot proposition process in California.

Proposition 22

This poll will be the final public release of our research on Proposition 22. If you are interested in continued private polling on Proposition 22 as the election approaches, please email us at [email protected].

California’s Proposition 22 would exempt app-based employees from being classified as traditional full-time employees, thus allowing them to retain an independent contractor status. Proposition 22 is of particular salience to the future of the gig economy and of existential importance to ride-sharing companies.

Those who support the proposition—including Uber, Lyft, and other driver-based app platforms––argue that this exemption is vital to maintain the level of flexibility that they and their drivers desire as well as keep prices low for consumers. On the other hand, opponents of the proposition, including the labor unions, argue that the proposition would prevent these drivers from receiving the wages and benefits that they would be entitled to receive if they were classified as full employees.

Given the unfamiliarity that voters may have with ballot propositions until they are presented with the question on their ballots, we presented respondents to our poll, absent any context, with the exact text of Proposition 22.

At this stage, when prompted with the full wording of Proposition 22 without any prior context given, a majority of respondents (53%) said they will vote YES for Proposition 22 and 27% said they will vote NO. A fifth (20%) do not know how they will vote. Compared to our polling six weeks ago, the proportion of respondents who will vote NO has remained very stable (within the margin of error of the poll), while the percentage of the public who will vote YES has risen by twelve points to 53%. Notably, the proportion of those who do not know how they will vote has dropped fourteen points

Although the subsample is small (n = 102), around three quarters of current drivers for ride-sharing apps say they will vote ‘YES,’ a result which is consistent with our polling six weeks ago (n = 144). However, this subgroup of respondents also contained fewer members saying they would be ‘certain to vote’ (49%) on the ballot propositions in California, in comparison to the rest of our sample.

Clear pluralities, or majorities (46-59%) of all age groups say they will vote ‘YES on Proposition 22. Two thirds (66%) of those likely to vote for Donald Trump in the Presidential Election will vote ‘YES,’ and despite Joe Biden urging Californians to vote ‘NO’ on the initiative in November, around half (49%) of likely Biden voters plan to also vote ‘YES.’ Less than a third (31%) of Biden voters will vote ‘NO,’ while only around a fifth (21%) of Trump voters will.

Following our voting intention question, we asked respondents directly whether California law should classify drivers for Uber, Lyft, and similar companies as employees or contractors, a majority (52%) believe that drivers should be classified as contractors, and 36% think Californian law should classify them as employees, which is a significantly greater proportion of respondents than the percentage who said they would vote NO to Proposition 22 (27%).

26% of respondents who said ‘YES’ to our Proposition 22 voting intention question said California Law should classify such drivers as employees, while 30% of respondents who said ‘NO’ to our Proposition 22 voting intention question said California Law should classify such drivers as contractors. Among likely Biden voters, a narrower margin (49% to 41%) said drivers should be classified as contractors. Interestingly, among 18-to-24-year old and 25-to-34-year old respondents, more say such drivers should be classified as employees, even while pluralities in both age groups say they would vote ‘YES.’

This discrepancy suggests that the wording of the Proposition 22 question may be unclear. When asked, however, an overwhelming majority (79%) of respondents said that they felt that the title and description of the ballot initiative was clear enough for them to understand. Our research found little differentiation between the self-reported levels of understanding among all demographic groups, including young people. It is possible that the minority of respondents in these subgroups account for this discrepancy, or that the phrasing of this follow up question struggled to overcome a social desirability bias, given that few may be unwilling to admit they did not understand a question they answered.

Voters voting by mail may have the opportunity to research Proposition 22 as they vote. After receiving their ballot in the mail, they can simply go online and look up the issue, an opportunity that is not easily afforded to those who fill out their ballots in a booth on Election Day. At this moment, 60% of respondents in California say they will be voting by mail. While our Proposition 22 voting intention question shows no discrepancy between in person voters and mailing voters, it is possible that this group could change its mind due to the circumstances under which they are voting.

Nevertheless, at this stage, a clear majority (57%) of the Californian public are aware of Proposition 22, while 43% are not aware. This finding marks a significant shift compared to our findings six weeks ago, where only around a third (34%) were aware of Proposition 22. In this latest poll,younger respondents aged 18-24 appear significantly less likely (42%) to be aware of Proposition 22 than older respondents aged 55-64 years old (62%) or 65 and older (63%). For understandable reasons, present drivers (88%) are substantially more aware than the general population.

Increasing awareness of the Proposition may be tied to the initiation of campaign adverts from the Yes on Proposition 22 team, which had received $181.4 million in funding by 4 September, including $48 million each from Uber, Lyft and Doordash, $28 million from Instacart and $10 million from Postmates, making it the most expensive initiative campaign in California’s history.

Proposition 22 seeks to modify Assembly Bill 5, which was passed in California in 2019 and came into effect at the start of this year. A clear majority (56%) continue to be unfamiliar with Assembly Bill 5, while only around a fifth (19%) say they are familiar with the legislation.

Interestingly, when Assembly Bill 5 is explained to respondents, a clear plurality (43%) approve of the legislation, while less than a quarter (22%) disapprove. A further say they 24% don’t know whether they approve or disapprove.

At this stage, a majority (55%) of respondents appear supportive of Proposition 22, when its intended purpose is explained to them and they have been provided with some context on Assembly Bill 5. The proportion of respondents who support Proposition 22 specifically as a modification to Assembly Bill 5 has risen by twelve points since August.

Majority support for Proposition 22 is likely linked to the positive view that consumers have of the app-based companies. Overall, Uber (+33%), Lyft (+39%), Doordash (+35%), Instacart (+29%) and Postmates (+30%) all hold strong net favorability ratings among the California public.

One indication of this favorability is that a strong plurality (49%) of the California public even believe that ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft help reduce California’s carbon emissions, despite evidence that ride-hailing trips result in an estimated 69% more climate pollution on average than the trips they displace. Currently, just 13% disagree that ridesharing services help reduce California’s carbon emissions.

The outcome of November’s vote on Proposition 22 is certain to have crucial implications across the state, given that a notable proportion of the public utilize the app-based companies on a regular basis. A significant percentage of Californians say they use Uber (26%), Lyft (24%) and Doordash (32%) at least once a month.

Over half (55%) of members of the public say they would be at least somewhat affected if Uber and Lyft no longer operated in the California, a figure that breaks down into 28% of Californians who consider they would be somewhat affected, 15% who believe they would be moderately affected, and 12% say they would be significantly affected.

Indeed, our latest polling highlights that 12% of Californians have been a driver for a ride-sharing app such as Uber or Lyft at some point. In particular, a significant proportion of those aged 18-24 (15%), 25-34 (24%) and 35-44 (16%) have been a driver for a ride-sharing app.

Moreover, our poll found that among those who have driven for a ride-sharing app at some stage, 43% are still currently a driver.

While California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra has argued that Uber and Lyft are “big businesses [which] try to skip out on their responsibilities” by paying their drivers lower wages and providing fewer benefits, over three quarters (79%) of those who are currently operating as a driver for a ride-sharing app are satisfied with their position. An important caveat: it may be the case that the drivers who were dissatisfied with their position have stopped driving for these companies, and therefore only those who are satisfied have stayed on. 

Advocates in favor of Proposition 22 argue that voting YES would continue to provide drivers with the ability to decide when they want to work and for how long, as well as the opportunity to work for anyone else they choose, including competitors. At this point, half (50%) of the California public believe that it is in the best interests of those who drive for Uber, Lyft and others to be classed as contractors, while around a third (34%) consider that it would be better for the drivers if they were classified as employees. Among those who have been drivers, there is a near even split (40% say employees; 42% say contractors).

A plurality (43%) of respondents believe that it is in the best interests of those who take rides from drivers on Uber, Lyft and others for drivers to be classified as contractors. Around a third (34%) believe it would be in consumers’ interests for drivers to be classified as employees.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, upgrading drivers to employees could add up to 30% more in labor costs for the companies in question, a cost which may be absorbed by consumers who make use of the apps. A clear plurality (45%) of Californians believe that services offered by Uber, Lyft and others will be cheaper if drivers are classified as contractors. Just a fifth (19%) think services would be cheaper if drivers are classified as employees.

The decision of Californian voters on Proposition 22 in November will have a significant impact on the business models of Uber, Lyft and other similar app-based companies. Indeed, California represents 9% of Uber’s global rides and Eats gross bookings, while Lyft (which only operates in the U.S. and does not have a food delivery business) has stated that California makes up some 16% of total rides. Currently, a slight plurality (31%) agree when prompted with a statement suggesting that the greater expense incurred for these companies if their drivers are classified as employees will cause them to go bankrupt, while 27% disagree and 28% neither agree nor disagree.

There is a notable partisan dimension evident in responses to this question: 46% of likely Trump voters agree that the companies will go bankrupt if they are required to classify drivers as employees, compared to just 23% of Biden supporters.

Although the public is generally supportive of Proposition 22 and holds favorable views of the companies which are campaigning for the ballot initiative, a clear plurality (41%) agree that if Uber, Lyft and Doordash go bankrupt, it would be because they were unsustainable businesses, rather than due to unfair regulations. Only around a fifth (21%) disagree, while 27% neither agree nor disagree. As such, threats by these companies that they will pull their operations from California has the potential to backfire.

Altogether, a majority of respondents to our poll say they will vote ‘YES’ on Proposition 22 (an even larger majority than our previous poll in August). Similarly, on a different question, a majority also say that California law should classify drivers for app-based services like Uber and Lyft as contractors and not employees––although some discrepancy between the two questions suggests that the wording of the ballot measure may not be clear enough. Nevertheless, respondents altogether appear to hold favorable views of Uber, Lyft, and Doordash, the three companies who have contributed significant sums to the ballot measure’s campaign, and awareness of the ballot measure is clearly growing.

This poll will be the final public release of our research on Proposition 22. If you are interested in continued private polling on Proposition 22 as the election approaches, please email us at [email protected].

Proposition 24

Elsewhere on the ballot, former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang leads the charge to pass Proposition 24, a ballot proposition designed to give consumers greater control over their data and how companies use it. However, critics of the proposition, including the pro-privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation, have claimed that Proposition 24 does not go far enough in its attempts to protect data privacy and have called it a “missed opportunity” to protect civil liberties in the modern age.

The majority (60%) of respondents to our poll say they intend to vote ‘Yes’ on Proposition 24, with less than a fifth (17%) opposing the proposition. Almost a quarter (23%) do not know how they will vote on the ballot proposition.

Those who intend to vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming Presidential Election are more likely to oppose the proposition than those intending to vote for Joe Biden (29% and 11% respectively) but nevertheless, almost half (49%) of likely Trump voters intend to vote ‘Yes’ for Proposition 24 as well as two-thirds (67%) of likely Biden voters.

As with Proposition 22, a large number of respondents to our poll reported being able to understand the ballot measure’s text.

While Proposition 24 is popular when voters are provided with the full ballot measure’s text, approximately three-quarters (74%) were not aware of the proposition prior to the poll, which contrasts considerably with the relatively higher degree of awareness surrounding Proposition 22. Again, majorities in each age group were not aware of the proposition, nor was there any noticeable division along political lines when it came to awareness of the proposition.

Proposition 24 seeks to build on the consumer privacy protections developed by California’s Consumer Privacy Act. Our poll found that half (51%) of the Californian public are familiar with the Consumer Privacy Act.

Of those that are aware of California’s Consumer Privacy Act, the vast majority (76%) approve of Act, while only 3% disapprove.

A strong plurality (46%) would approve of the expansion of the California Consumer Privacy Act through the creation of a regulatory agency to manage California’s privacy regime, while only a tenth (11%) would disagree. Currently, breeches of California’s Consumer Privacy Act are reported by the consumers themselves when they encounter a violation, but some have advocated for the creation of a regulatory agency that holds companies to account on behalf of the consumers. Almost a third (31%) would neither approve nor disapprove of such a move. Again, there are no differences between the age groups and only minor differences along political lines.

Under the current California Consumer Privacy Act, companies have a 30-day window to rectify data-related privacy breaches before the Attorney General can take them to court. Examples of breaches include not notifying the consumer that their data is being collected, not allowing customers to request reports of the data collected on them or providing different levels of service depending on how consumers use their data protection rights. Similarly, under Proposition 24, companies can avoid substantial fines if they address violations within 30 days of being made aware of them. A plurality (38%) would support eliminating the 30-day window, while a fifth (19%) would disapprove.

At the crux of the issue, however, is whether Americans feel that their data is being protected by the law. The majority (53%) of Californians agree that consumer protection laws in the United States and California are too weak, while only 8% think otherwise. California may be at the heart of America’s technology industry, but its voters appear concerned about the way companies are using their data.

Overall, the majority of Californians intend to vote YES on Proposition 24. Many Californians want to expand privacy protections and acknowledge that current consumer data protections laws are weak, despite concerns raised that Proposition 24 is an unnecessary burden on businesses. The California Consumer Privacy Act, which was signed into law two years ago, is popular among those that are familiar with it, but they would still support its expansion. There is little division between the age groups, nor along political lines on this issue, with high levels of support on all sides. Nevertheless, while Proposition 24 appears popular to our respondents upon its presentation, the vast majority of Californians were not aware of Proposition 24 prior to this poll.

This poll will be the final public release of our research on Proposition 22. If you are interested in continued private polling on Proposition 22 as the election approaches, please email us at [email protected].

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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