SACRAMENTO (AP) — Voter support for a $1 per-pack tax hike on cigarettes is dropping quickly, according to a new poll that reflects the effectiveness of an opposition campaign funded by tobacco companies.
The Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday found that 53 percent of likely voters say they will vote yes on Proposition 29 on the June 5 primary, while 42 percent say they will vote no.
That compares with 67 percent in support and 30 percent opposed in the same poll taken in March, before the opposition began its flood of TV and radio commercials.
"The large drop in support for Proposition 29 speaks loudly about how a well-funded opposition is able to raise voters' doubts and distrust in state government, even when a tax increase is viewed favorably," Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the institute, said in a statement.
The tobacco companies and anti-tax groups that oppose the initiative had raised more than $41 million as of Wednesday, while cycling legend Lance Armstrong, anti-smoking groups and other supporters had raised $13 million, according to campaign finance reports.
If passed, the tax would raise hundreds of millions of dollars and direct money to a new committee to fund research projects, smoking-reduction programs and law enforcement efforts involving tobacco.
The tobacco industry calls it a badly flawed measure that will force smokers to pay for a bureaucracy that could send research dollars out of state.
The poll also surveyed voter opinion on another June ballot initiative, Proposition 28.
It would reduce the total number of years lawmakers can serve in the Legislature from 14 to 12 but allow them to serve all of that time in one house. The poll found that 62 percent of likely voters say they will vote yes while 29 percent say they are opposed. That compares to 68 percent in support and 24 percent opposed in March.
As the primary approaches, Californians remain pessimistic about the economy with 83 percent of those surveyed saying the state remains in a recession. If that sentiment holds until November, it could make it more difficult for Gov. Jerry Brown to get his tax-hike initiative approved.
A slim majority continued to support his proposed November ballot measure to raise the state sales tax by a quarter cent and income taxes on those making $250,000 a year or more. The poll found 56 percent of likely voters say they would vote yes, compared with 38 percent against. The response is similar to the support in the same poll taken in April.
Last week, the governor released a revised budget plan that calls for automatic cuts to public schools if voters reject the tax initiative.
All three of the ballot measures need a simple majority to pass.
The poll surveyed 894 likely voters in English and Spanish from May 14-20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent.