Originally posted at Fox & Hounds Daily.
By Steven Maviglio.

For all the political chatter about pensions, California voters remain strongly opposed to gutting the retirement benefits of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees.

According to a new statewide poll conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based GarinHartYoung Research Group, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s proposed ballot measure that gives cities the ability to slash the retirement benefits of existing public employees has the support of only 36 percent of California voters.

“Survey results show that California voters have little appetite for a ballot proposal that would reduce retirement benefits for current public employees,” notes pollster Fred Yang in a memo about the poll. “The fact that this initiative calls for the modification of retirement benefits only for years of services not yet performed makes little difference to voters. Moreover, even with a neutral reading of the ballot, this measure fails to garner over 36% of the vote in the initial trial heat.

“In fact, additional factual information about the ballot proposal, as well as messages for and against the initiative, does little to move California voters. Fact-based statements about the tenets of the proposal fail to sway undecided voters, and at no point does the proposal garner more than 36% of voter support.

Ballot messaging fails to sway key voters, including those who would be most critical for the ballot’s success. After hearing more details about the initiative, as well as messages in support and opposition, the ballot measure succeeds in convincing the majority of only one segment of the California electorate: Republican men support the initiative with 51% of their vote. Yet only 39% of Republican women are supportive.

No other segment breaks this majority mark in support: Only 37% of whites, 32% of Hispanics, and 25% of African Americans support the proposal, as do only 43% of men and 30% of women 34% of voters under age 50 and 38% of voters age 50 and over.

“California voters see the negative consequences of reducing retirement benefits for public employees, and the negative consequences of this ballot proposal specifically,” wrote Yang. Three in four (75%) voters believe that, should this initiative pass, public employees “could lose the benefits that there were depending on,” and 65% believe that “workers could end up with insufficient retirement benefits.” The vast majority of the electorate also believes that the state of California could become entangled in expensive, taxpayer-funded lawsuits should this ballot proposal become law.”

These poll results are consistent with previous polling on the issue. A poll by Oakland, Calif.-based FM3 pollsters in February, noted “California voters overwhelmingly oppose the idea of cutting retirement benefits for current public employees,” rejecting the basic premise of the Reed measure by a 63-33 percent margin.

A Field Poll in July 2012 found “California voters have mixed feelings about the pension benefits received by most state and local government workers.  They are about evenly split as to whether these pension benefits are too generous (37%) or about right (36%).  Another sizeable segment (17%) thinks they are not generous enough.”

The poll was commissioned by Californians for Retirement Security, a statewide coalition representing 1.6 million teachers, firefighters, police officers, school employees and other active and retired public employees.