Capitol Alert

California voters overwhelmingly support assisted death law

Debbie Ziegler holds a photo of her daughter, Brittany Maynard, the California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally end her life last fall, during a Capitol news conference reintroducing right-to-die legislation on Aug. 18, 2015.
Debbie Ziegler holds a photo of her daughter, Brittany Maynard, the California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally end her life last fall, during a Capitol news conference reintroducing right-to-die legislation on Aug. 18, 2015. The Associated Press

Nearly two-thirds of California voters support legislation, signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown, that will allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients.

In a new Field Poll, conducted after the high-profile bill was passed by lawmakers last month, 65 percent of respondents favored the assisted death proposal, compared to 27 percent who were opposed – a majority that cuts across partisan, ethnic and religious lines.

The controversial measure, which opponents argued would put the state’s most vulnerable patients in harm’s way, intensely divided the Legislature this session, and stumbled through several political roadblocks before finally reaching Brown’s desk. Emotional floor debates lasted for hours, and only three Republicans ultimately voted for the bill.

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That acrimony is not reflected in public opinion, however, which shows 70 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans approving. (Large majorities among self-identified liberal and “middle-of-the-road” voters are offset slightly by conservatives, who split 47 percent in support and 47 percent opposed.)

“It’s an issue that’s not as caught up in the political currents of today,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said, unlike other “hot-button social issues” like gay marriage and medical marijuana, which produce partisan differences in polling.

The bill was also favored by a majority of Latino and Catholic voters – 56 percent and 55 percent, respectively – despite heavy opposition by the Catholic Church. Mobilizing clergy and congregations, the church helped lead a campaign lobbying the Latino Caucus and other Catholic Democrats to oppose the measure.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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