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  1. 1. California Fairness Campaign A summary of past research on equal opportunity in California Celinda Lake Washington, DC | Berkeley, CA | New York, NY 510-286-2097 David Binder Research San Francisco, CA 415.621.7655
  2. 2. Methodology • Lake Research Partners and David Binder Research designed and conducted a telephone survey of 500 likely 2012 general election voters in California using a sample of 80% random digit dialed (RDD) telephones and 20% cell phones. Interviews were conducted in September 19-22, 2011. Sampling error is +/- 4.4%. • David Binder Research and Lake Research Partners conducted a series of eight focus groups in April 2011, in Concord, San Diego, Pasadena, and Los Angeles. Six of the groups were conducted with white voters, one was conducted with Latino voters, and one was conducted with African American voters. All participants were likely voters who were neither strongly supportive, nor strongly opposed to affirmative action in general. • Before doing national research on Affirmative Action, Lake Research Partners (LRP) and Westen Strategies collaborated to develop strong messages on Equal Opportunity that could go head to head with the strongest conservative messages in California. LRP designed and administered the California survey that was conducted online between February 6-10, 2009. Using the results from California as a model and further refining our messaging, we conducted a national study using the same methodology. The survey reached 1,200 registered voters nationwide. The sample was drawn from an online panel and respondents were screened to be registered voters. The survey was conducted between June 26 th and June 30th, 2009. The overall margin of error for this poll is +/-2.9%. • LRP conducted another telephone survey on behalf of the EJC, which fielded February 13-27, 2006. This survey reached a random sample of 800 California voters. The overall margin of error for this poll is +/-3.5%. 2
  3. 3. Strategic Summary • Most California voters believe that discrimination still exists in California, but it is not an urgent concern. Many are uninformed about the current status of affirmative action in the state. • The assessment survey of 2012 general election voters in California showed that amending Proposition 209 will be challenging, and was not likely to pass with the ballot language tested. • The poll shows that overall, slightly more voters support affirmative action than oppose it (35% vs. 27%, with 37% not sure), and that there is a similar level of support for the two versions of the initiative (35% yes and 28% no when “prohibiting quotas” is mentioned; 33% yes and 29% no when it’s not). • However, the portion of undecided voters is very high on the initial ballot (34% or 36%) and continues to the final ballot. This level of confusion or ambivalence tends to result in a “no” vote at the ballot box. This initiative receives far less than the 50% support we would need on Election Day. • We can win the messaging battle against the opposition. Voters are significantly more receptive to our messages. We can use this to build majority support over time for policy changes. However, that dynamic is unlikely to play out in the short-term on an up-and-down initiative vote. 3
  4. 4. Context Although California voters tend to agree that discrimination is an issue in California, most do not consider it a pressing problem. Many are unaware of the current status of affirmative action in the state. A plurality supports affirmative action, in theory. Affirmative action in higher education tests similarly to affirmative action in the workplace.
  5. 5. California • RAE Voter drop-off: 29.0% – Est. 2,373,000 votes • Non-RAE Voter drop-off: 9.8% – Est. 518,000 votes RAE population: 66.7% Voter Distribution of the Electorate 2012 Voter Turnout Non-RAE 39.2% -2.4 M RAE 60.8% -518 K 2014 Non-RAE 43.9% RAE 56.1% 5 Source: CPS November 2012 Supplement
  6. 6. Many voters believe discrimination is an issue in California, but it’s not an urgent concern for most. “I don’t see it as one of our major problems. We have one of the most diverse populations.” - White woman, Concord “It wouldn’t be first on my list of things to solve.” - White woman, Concord “It’s not over, but it has improved and that’s where I think the problem is. A lot of people think that we’ve arrived.” - African American woman, LA Regarding who had the least opportunity: “The middle class who are right on or in the middle. The middle class is shrinking.” -Non-college white man, Concord • Prioritizing this for voters will need to be a key part of the long term campaign. • Most voters, especially women, say that discrimination is an issue, but isn’t an urgent one. • Nearly all voters, including voters of color, say that things have gotten better over the years. • Non-college white men in particular believe that reverse discrimination is the bigger problem now. 6
  7. 7. An overwhelming number of voters are unsure or misinformed on whether or not affirmative action programs are currently in place in California. “I think that affirmative action’s not…I don’t know. I don’t think it’s illegal but I thought that the colleges and the universities couldn’t admit people based off affirmative action….” - White women, Concord “It’s what Susan was talking about…back in the seventies?” - White woman, San Diego “What does it mean?” - White woman, San Diego “There is gosh, I mean there’s no denying there are quotas that have to be met. We need x amount women, we need x amount of men, we need x amount of Hispanics, we need x amount of Blacks. I have 2 kids going off to college.” - White woman, Concord “I don’t remember [Prop 209}…and I’m a voter.” - African American woman, LA • Several voters are not even aware of what affirmative action is or don’t believe it’s relevant anymore. African Americans were likely to know more, but across the board this is not a top-of-mind issue for voters. • A large number of respondents believed that racial quotas were in effect at public universities. This was a misconception among parents of college students as well. • Recognition of Proposition 209 was very low among all groups. 7
  8. 8. In 2006, Californians reported equally favorable sentiments about affirmative action in higher education and affirmative action in the workplace. In Higher Education In the Workplace 8 Do you favor or oppose affirmative action programs in [higher education/the work place], or aren’t you sure? February 2006 LRP survey of California voters.
  9. 9. Voters are much more enthusiastic about “equal opportunity programs” than they are about “affirmative action programs” in higher education. The language of equal opportunity also appears in our top message. In Higher Education… “Affirmative Action Programs” “Equal Opportunity Programs” 9 Do you favor or oppose [affirmative action/equal opportunity] programs in higher education, or aren’t you sure? February 2006 LRP survey of California voters.
  10. 10. Response to a Ballot Initiative The assessment survey of likely 2012 general election voters in California showed that amending Proposition 209 will be challenging, and was unlikely to pass with the ballot language tested. We need to continue working on the initiative language, building from our existing messaging research.
  11. 11. Text of Initiative Tested • Prohibits [quotas and]* wage discrimination. Permits the state to consider age, race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, or socioeconomic status in public contracting, employment, and education to the extent permitted by federal law. • Amends Constitution to prohibit wage discrimination based on age, sex, race, color, ethnicity or national origin. [Prohibits the use of quotas in public education, hiring, and contracting, but]* permits the state to consider age, race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, and socioeconomic status to the extent permitted by federal law. *split sampled with and without this language 11
  12. 12. Prohibiting quotas yields slightly higher support, though for a “yes” campaign, we would want the support of 50% or more. Over a third are undecided. Initial Ballot With “Prohibits Quotas” 35 +7 28 15 17 Yes No 34 Without “Prohibits Quotas” 33 +4 29 15 Undecided 17 Yes No 36 As you may know, in California voters are able to vote on ballot measures that amend the California Constitution. Here is the title and summary of a proposed constitutional amendment that may be on the ballot. If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on this initiative, or are you undecided? [IF YES/NO:] Is that strongly or not so strongly? [IF UNDECIDED:] Well, which way do you lean? Undecided 12
  13. 13. Voters prefer ballot language like “Requires all state agencies and public universities” rather than giving “flexibility” to such institutions. “[Flexibility] gives a green light for employers to do what they want.” - White woman, San Diego “I didn’t like that because I thought that flexibility means you can do anything, so it’s not guidance one way or another.” - White man, San Diego “I struggled with the ’permits flexibility.’ To me it screams a loophole.” - White man, San Diego • Voters, especially in Pasadena, like the clarity that the word “requires” provides. They also like that it means forcing action on discrimination. • The word “flexibility” was troubling to most voters, since it could either provide businesses with the flexibility to consider—or not. On using the word ’requires’: "We need to force government to prevent discrimination.” -White woman, Pasadena 13
  14. 14. The inclusion of age, gender, and socioeconomic status along with race, increases support for the initiative and relevance of the issue to all voters, rather than making it an us vs. them battle. “[Our jobs] have been taken by Latinos who are doing all of the food service work.” - Non-college white man, Concord • It also minimizes the resentment of some voters about “bringing up race.” “The gap is widening more and more. There’s disparity between the rich and poor. We’re seeing people who are already entrenched have good jobs; they’re all educated. They’re doing okay, but people who come from different backgrounds, like younger people and minorities, they’re having a much harder time..” • Voters largely agree that gender and age discrimination exist, even if there isn’t consensus on racial discrimination, or on which racial groups are currently hurt the most. • Some voters harbor resentment towards Latinos, especially undocumented immigrants, while many agree African Americans don’t have as much opportunity. • Voters sympathize with both younger and older workers looking for work. - White man, San Diego On not hiring a 55 year-old guy after he’s been laid off: “That’s really true. It’d be great if somebody could look at this qualified person and say, looking at your background, we know you did a great job. I’m going to give you a fair chance.” - Latina, LA 14
  15. 15. Messaging The best testing message is one that focuses on the new global economy, and educating our youth to be competitive among the global workforce and bring jobs to California. This syncs well with economic concerns people have today.
  16. 16. By far, the top message is Competition. It speaks directly to the economic issues that are on voters’ minds, rather than sidestepping them. Message – All Voters Competition The global economy is a competitive economy. Over half of all new, good-paying jobs will require some form of education past high school. We need young people to be well-educated to help drive our economic recovery and be the workers of tomorrow. When we leave entire communities behind, we leave our economy behind, as jobs leave California. Very Convincing Total Convincing 44 76 We don’t want to live in a world where your gender or skin color determines whether or not you can get a job or how well you are paid for a hard day’s work. Everybody should get an equal opportunity to succeed and equal pay for equal work, and let employers and educators consider everything that will make their businesses and our children successful. 16 *Asked of half the sample.
  17. 17. The Competition message resonated strongly with voters during focus groups. “It spoke to your heart. It makes you feel like this is how you’d like to see California be.” - White woman, San Diego “The thing that stood out the most, the global economy is a competitive economy. Over half of all new paying jobs in the future will require some form of education past high school. I preach to my kids that they’re going to have to get a good education if they want to live in the state of California.” - Non-college white man, Concord “The message was strong and concise. One of the things that stood out most was that when we leave entire communities behind we leave our economy behind...if you exclude people or block people from succeeding, then it’s going to affect the entire country.” -Latino man, LA • Voters like the focus on education in this message. • The line about leaving communities behind stood out to a number of voters. • The message has an aspirational quality to it that spoke to voters, especially those in San Diego. 17
  18. 18. Top Progressive Message On Affirmative Action – “Don’t Believe In Discrimination” The top message from our 2009 survey starts out by denouncing discrimination, and asserting that government should not tie the hands of employers or colleges trying to ensure that every qualified candidate gets a fair shot. This message underscores flexibility, decries the use of quotas, and uses explicit examples of discrimination against women and older Americans in making the case for action. “In this country, we don’t believe in discriminating against people, regardless of their color, ethnic background, sex, or age, and government shouldn’t tie the hands of employers or colleges with inflexible rules that prevent them from making sure every qualified candidate gets a fair chance. We all know that women don’t get hired or promoted in a lot of companies the same way as men, particularly if they took time off to raise their kids, [and all of us should care about that], whether we’re women, fathers, or husbands. We all know that employers look differently at older workers than younger ones, and we shouldn’t be telling a 55-year-old guy, [“Sorry, there’s no place for you here,”] when he got laid off from a job. And we all know that underfunded rural or urban schools with crumbling walls and 1980s textbooks put kids at a disadvantage, whether they’re black, white, or brown. We need to let business and educational leaders act responsibly and flexibly to make sure everyone is treated fairly, without resorting to quotas or one-size-fits-all programs that don’t do right by anyone.” Affirmative Action Messages – Key Subgroups Net Total White men 53 BOLD = respondent dialed up on this language [bracket / italic] = respondent dialed down on this language 36 White women 59 Swing independents 45 18
  19. 19. Another Top-Tier Progressive Message On Affirmative Action – “Best Way Is To End The Need For It” A message that underscores the importance of education in giving children chances to succeed, and the responsibility of parents to guide and nurture their children, also resonates and beats the opposition message by a convincing margin. The best way to end affirmative action is to end the need for it. That means making sure every American child has a world-class education, and rewarding kids who beat the odds despite where they from came from--whether they’re white, black, Hispanic, or anything else-by giving them a hand up, not a hand out. We need to solve the problems of poverty and inequality the same way successful entrepreneurs solve their problems: [by testing out different approaches, seeing which ones work, and discarding those that don’t.] We can go on listening to politicians who want to divide us by blaming these problems on either societal factors or a lack of personality responsibility, when we all know it’s both. Too many kids grow up in neighborhoods with crumbling schools, few thriving businesses run by people who look like them and can offer them their first job, and too few role models going to college instead of prison. But it’s also the job of their parents to guide them, read to them, turn off the TV, and teach them the values of hard work and personal responsibility. [So instead of pointing fingers, let’s fix the problem, using the same American ingenuity we’ve used to solve every other problem in our history.] Affirmative Action Messages – Key Subgroups Net Total White men 44 BOLD = respondent dialed up on this language [bracket / italic] = respondent dialed down on this language 24 White women 47 Swing independents 41 19
  20. 20. Principles of effective messaging on affirmative action • • • • • • • • • • Speak in the language of the people we want to reach, not the language of activists. Focus on values, not policies or programs. Whoever wins the debate on the meaning of “fairness” and “opportunity” wins on affirmative action. Make this about “us” and not “them” (foster identification). Allow people their ambivalence, and don’t reduce all of their opposition to prejudice. Understand conscious vs. unconscious attitudes. Do not grant the other side resentments of the past, such as quotas. Emphasize giving employers and others flexibility in decision-making. Simultaneously condemn stereotyping and the use of quotas. Acknowledge the progress made over the years and the need to update equal opportunity policies (e.g. to include older workers). 20
  21. 21. What to Avoid • The term “affirmative action” is toxic. It is far better to use “equal opportunity policies,” and the phrases “giving people a fair chance” and “opportunity should knock for all Americans.” • The research also reveals some lines of argument to avoid: – Historical appeals about discrimination are ineffective. – Invoking historical figures isn’t particularly effective, either. – Using language about children – e.g., “children born on the wrong side of town” and “high school dropouts” – does not help our case. 21
  22. 22. Strategic Recommendations: Moving Forward • Make the case to voters: – Discrimination continues to be widespread, and racial/gender/age/economic disparities hurt the shrinking middle class. – Now, more than ever, we need to provide equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity to all. – We need to invest more in education for all kids, to ensure we stay competitive in the global economy and bring jobs to California. – Those who have been laid off need protection as they search for new jobs, and should not be discriminated on the basis of age, gender, race, etc. • Build our political feasibility: We need to continue working on the initiative language, and determine where there is room for flexibility. For example, we have found the phrase “Permits state to consider” to be problematic in focus groups, and the ballot language we tested without this phrase in groups was better received. We also know from the groups that most voters feel a greater sense of urgency on age discrimination than race, as well as equal pay for women, and some of the stronger messages speak directly to those concerns. 22
  23. 23. Summary: What we need to learn • Have Californians’ attitudes about affirmative action evolved since our last research? If so, how? • What messaging will be most effective to communicate about equal opportunity programs in higher education? • How can we refine our ballot language to reach majority support, and also adapt to the new political context?
  24. 24. Washington, DC | Berkeley, CA | New York, NY 202.776.9066 Celinda Lake David Mermin Shilpa Grover San Francisco, CA 415.621.7655 David Binder Seiji Carpenter Shanan Alper