The massively expensive campaign for a state proposition to let Uber, Instacart and other major tech companies keep treating their drivers as contractors rather than employees remains wide open as Election Day approaches, a poll released Wednesday found.
The Berkeley IGS Poll showed the side supporting Proposition 22, which has raised more than $180 million from four big tech firms, eking out a narrow lead, with 39 percent of likely voters saying they are in favor and 36 percent opposed.
But the poll found that initiative, along with three other hotly contested state propositions on this November’s ballot — measures that would raise business property taxes, expand rent control and reinstate affirmative action — are all falling short of the majority support they will need to pass. The one that comes closest, the commercial property tax measure Proposition 15, boasts a 15 percentage-point lead over its opponents, with 49 percent in favor.
That’s because a huge share of California voters — 25 percent when it comes to Proposition 22 and similarly large for the other measures — remains undecided, even as elections officials prepare to send out ballots by mail early next month.
“This looks like a poll that was done six months before the election, when voters weren’t tuning in on any of the issues,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the IGS poll.
In a year upended by a global pandemic, wildfires and a presidential campaign at a “fever pitch,” DiCamillo said, California’s state propositions just haven’t been on many voters’ radar.
So, with massive campaign war chests still unspent and lots of voters still undecided, that can only mean one thing for your TV screen, mailbox and social media feeds, he said.
“You are going to see a deluge of ads,” DiCamillo said. “Whoever has the money is going to be spending, and trying to educate voters and bring them over — because a lot of them haven’t been paying attention.”
Proposition 22 is proving to be California’s most expensive campaign of the year, as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart have poured money into the Yes campaign in a bid to roll back a new California law and state supreme court ruling that have required them to provide the benefits and protections of full employment to their drivers.
The companies say their services can’t survive if they are required to treat gig workers as employees, and that the changes would give those drivers less of the flexibility that can make the work appealing, such as setting their own hours. Opponents of Prop 22 argue those companies got rich on the underpaid labor of workers who were employees in all but name, and should pay their fair share for health care, unemployment insurance and sick leave.
The business property tax measure, Proposition 15, appears to be “in a good position,” according to DiCamillo. Likely voters supported the measure by a 49-34 margin, with 17 percent undecided.
The measure would raise an estimated $12 billion per year for schools and local governments by taxing commercial property worth more than $3 million based on its market value, rather than its purchase price.
The closely watched initiative would partially repeal the tax limits California voters enshrined with Prop 13. But in a nod to the 1978 proposition’s enduring popularity with many homeowners, this year’s measure would not touch residential property taxes. The strategy appears to be paying off: Proposition 15 has support from 43 percent of homeowners, the poll found, slightly more than the 41 percent who opposed it. Renters were overwhelmingly in favor, 57 percent to 25 percent.
Prospects were more mixed for Proposition 21, which would give local governments more power to pass rent control laws: Voters were evenly split on the proposition, with 37 percent in support and opposition and another 26 percent undecided. The initiative is similar to a 2018 rent control proposition that failed with just over 40 percent of voters in favor.
And the survey was another piece of bad news for Proposition 16, which seeks to repeal California’s ban on affirmative action. Despite vastly out-raising its opposition, Wednesday’s IGS poll found 41 percent of voters were opposed to the proposition, compared to just 33 percent who were in favor. It’s the second recent blow — the Public Policy Institute of California found the proposition was even further behind last week.
The measure, which would allow public universities and government agencies to consider the race and gender of applicants when making decisions on college admissions, hiring, contracting and other functions, has the support of Democratic leaders and racial justice groups. The yes campaign still insists it has a path to victory once voters know what their measure would do.
So far, though, the IGS poll showed that message hasn’t reached enough people — 26 percent of voters, including nearly a third of Democrats and large shares of non-White voters, were undecided.
The nonpartisan IGS poll included responses from more than 7,000 registered voters, nearly 6,000 of whom were considered likely voters. It was conducted online in English and Spanish between Sept. 9 and 15, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.