A campaign finance measure on the November ballot is trailing among likely California voters, according to a new survey, although a sizable percentage remain undecided as dueling campaigns head into their final weeks.
The poll, by the Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, shows 44 percent plan to vote no on Proposition 32 while 38 percent support the measure.
The rest, 18 percent, said they haven't decided.
"Opinions on this aren't fully formed yet," said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo.
Proposition 32 would ban unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted money for political purposes and prohibit their direct contributions to candidates or candidates' committees.
Both sides could still fund independent campaigns backing candidates and causes, but unions would have less money for those activities, since they rely on payroll-deducted dues to fuel their political efforts.
Corporations use money from their company resources and executive donations to fund their activities. The two sides often battle in Sacramento over everything from home mortgage reform and minimum-wage laws to government contracting and taxes.
Pollsters found that 52 percent of Democrats a party generally considered pro-union reject the measure, more than twice the 24 percent of Democrats who support it.
Republicans favor the measure, 52 percent to 37 percent. Some 45 percent of independents said they'll vote yes; 37 percent said they'll vote no.
The undecided voters in each party: Democrats, 24 percent; Republicans, 11 percent; independents, 18 percent.
Still, DiCamillo said he expects more voters will move into the "no" camp over the coming weeks. Organized labor has raised about $40 million to fight Proposition 32, compared with about $8 million raised by proponents.
Both sides have launched statewide ad campaigns, but Jack Citrin, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, said the unions are more motivated.
"Prop. 32 is an effort to limit the political power of unions they certainly see it as such," Citrin said. "They are going to continue to pour in huge resources into defeating this because they have more at stake. The yes side, if they lose, it merely maintains the status quo."
Registered Republican John Stalions is one of those supporting the measure.
The pastor and part-time independent contractor thinks Proposition 32 will pull back union influence run amok in Sacramento. He's voting for it.
"The unions are the neck turning the head," Stalions, 28, said in a telephone interview from his Chico home.
Business interests may exercise the same kind of clout, he said, "but they're the employers. So I believe the business of corporations is good for our state and the economy. I'd like to see more favorable treatment of business."
On the other side is Douglas Warnock another of the 1,183 likely voters surveyed.
The ironworker, who also lives in the Chico area, said he isn't interested in tilting the balance of political power toward business interests.
"Labor unions are made up of American working people," Warnock, 61, said, noting that he is preparing to retire with a union pension. "This proposition is about the anti-union big business movement driving down wages to increase profits for the owners. Once people learn about this they'll realize it's a scam."
The poll also tested voter views of a public pension agreement enacted last month by lawmakers and recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The changes included reduced benefits for newly hired state and local government workers and higher contributions from current and future employees.
The move to curtail spending was "about right" or "went too far," according to 57 percent of voters. Another 26 percent said the changes "didn't go far enough," leaving 17 percent undecided.