Why Proposition 22 Won in California

November 7, 2020
R&WS Research Team
Ballot Initiatives | California | Employment | Science & Technology | Technology | Transport | US Politics

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A clear majority (58%) of Californians have voted YES to the Proposition 22 ballot initiative, a result that aligns closely with Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ pre-election polling in California. Proposition 22 will ensure that app-based drivers in California will continue to be classified as contractors, rather than employees.

Our polling measured a consistent increase in support for Proposition 22 over time. In August, only 41% intended to vote YES, whereas 28% said they would vote NO. By late October, 62% of respondents said they would vote YES, which is only 4% more than the percentage who actually votes YES.


In line with the increase in respondents saying they were voting (or had already voted) YES, awareness surrounding Proposition 22 had grown significantly. Whereas only 34% of California respondents in August said they were aware of Proposition 22 prior to completing our poll, this figure rose to 57% in our September poll, and eventually to 88% in our October poll. This final number in October can, in part, be explained by the fact that nearly half of our sample (47%) said they had already voted. But, even among those who had not voted but said they would certainly vote (32% of our sample in late October), self-reported awareness (91%) was remarkably high, highlighting the extensive advertising of the Prop. 22 YES campaign.

Indeed, those who took rides from Uber and Lyft were reportedly notified about the upcoming proposition. Moreover, some drivers were paid to have their vehicle covered in pro-YES advertising, while Doordash, Instacart, and similar companies introduced special delivery bags in support of Proposition 22. Overall, the YES campaign received the highest ever amount of funding for a ballot initiative in California’s history, and were able to run a single advertisement which eclipsed the entire Facebook ad-spend of the NO campaign.

Public Perception of Uber and Lyft

It appears that companies such as Uber and Lyft are quite popular among the general public in California. Our polling found that 51% of California respondents have a favorable or very favorable opinion of Uber, compared to only 15% who have an unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of the company. Figures are similar for Lyft, with 49% viewing the company favorably and 12% unfavorably.

As well as viewing both Uber and Lyft favorably, California respondents are also relatively frequent users: 20% of California respondents say they use Uber at least once a week, and 14% say they use Lyft at least once a week. When it comes to using these services at least once a month, the figure increases to 34% for Uber and 29% for Lyft. Thus, we see that roughly a third of California respondents use Uber and Lyft at least once a month, a second third use their services more than once a year but less than once a month, and only a third have not used their services altogether.

Meanwhile, our poll found that 51% of overall respondents think that services provided by Uber, Lyft, and others would be cheaper to consumers if drivers are classified as contractors rather than employees, with only 18% thinking the opposite. However, it is worth pointing out that 31% of respondents said they don’t know whether the contractor or employee classification would lead to cheaper rides for consumers.

Partisan Breakdown of Support for Proposition 22

Despite the Biden campaign ostensibly endorsing NO, our research indicated that YES broadly attracted bipartisan support. Overall, 72% of likely Donald Trump voters said they would vote YES on Proposition 22, while a smaller, but still clear majority (59%) of respondents voting for Joe Biden are also voting YES. This finding has been corroborated in the eventual outcome, with the YES campaign holding sizeable leads in Democrat strongholds including Los Angeles and San Diego.

Our polling suggested that Proposition 22 had been effective at insulating itself from the polarization and partisanship which characterized many aspects of this electoral cycle and commanded broad bipartisan support, a finding which appears to have been substantiated in the final results.

Drivers’ Perspectives on Proposition 22

While detailed vote breakdown data is not yet available, our pre-election research indicated that among 381 current ride-sharing app-based ride share drivers, 82% would vote YES on Proposition 22 (compared to 62% of the overall sample). This finding undermines a key pillar of the NO campaign, in particular that drivers are treated unfairly by Uber, Lyft and other companies.

Moreover, respondents who have driven for ride-sharing apps reported a high level of job satisfaction. Overall, 71% of them are either satisfied or very satisfied with being (or having been) a driver for a ride-sharing app, compared to only 8% who reported being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

In light of the high rates of satisfaction among drivers for the ride-sharing app model, it is congruent that they would be more supportive than the general population of Proposition 22, which intends to preserve the current operating model of the ride-sharing apps (i.e. drivers being contractors rather than employees). Ultimately, clear support among drivers for YES may have been a key factor in the Proposition’s victory.

What Would Be Best for Drivers?

Similarly, when we asked the overall sample whether they think it would be in the best interests of those who drive for  Uber,  Lyft,  and  others  to  be  classified  as  contractors  or  employees, 53%  responded  it  would  be  in  the  best interest of the drivers to be classified as contractors, compared to 32% who think it would be in the best interest of drivers to be classified as employees. Among those who are drivers for ride-sharing apps, a majority (50%) said it would be in their best interest to be classified as contractors, compared to a minority (38%) who think drivers would be better off if classified as employees.

This preference again lends support to the arguments which were presented by the companies themselves, chiefly that it is the flexibility of the working model that attracts many drivers to Uber, Lyft, and others in the first place. This question also demonstrated a similar incongruency among respondents: 19% of those who said they would vote YES on Proposition 22 thought it would be in the best interest of drivers to be classified as employees.

The Future of Uber/Lyft in California

As part of their campaign in favor of YES, both Uber and Lyft suggested that a NO victory could result in the companies having to pull their operations from California, since the universal employee classification for its drivers would increase costs and make their business model unsustainable. When presented with a statement articulating this claim, 52% agreed that forcing Uber, Lyft, and others to classify their drivers as employees would likely result in the companies having to pull their operations from California, compared to only 15% who disagreed.

Here, there was a noticeable political split, with 65% of likely Donald Trump voters signalling agreement compared to only 46% of likely Joe Biden voters (which still constituted a plurality).

Despite the high popularity of Uber/Lyft in California and the frequency with which many Californians used their services, almost half (49%) say they would be neither positively nor negatively affected if Uber/Lyft pulled their operations from California. On the other hand, 17% say they would be positively affected by Uber/Lyft no longer operating in California, whereas 27% would be negatively affected.

Interestingly, 24% of those voting NO say they would be negatively affected by Uber/Lyft pulling their operations from California. At the same time, 20% of YES voters say they would be positively affected if Uber/Lyft ceased to operate in California. As highlighted by us before, these incongruous answers by some respondents could suggest that the wording of Proposition 22 (which could not specify Uber/Lyft and companies affected) was not clear enough to allow many voters to fully understand the implications of their vote, or that voters took into consideration factors beyond their own personal benefit.


Ultimately, our pre-election polling highlights that the YES campaign was very successful at raising awareness on Proposition 22 and increasing support for its side from early August up until Election Day. It is noteworthy that strong majorities of both likely Biden voters and likely Trump voters said they would vote YES on Proposition 22, despite the Biden campaign apparently backing the NO-side. In light of the extraordinary amount of money donated to the YES-campaign by Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and others, the measurable success of the YES campaign will no doubt change how ballot initiatives are approached in the United States.

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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