The Real Significance of a Poll

The following item was posted on the blog of the UCLA Faculty Association:

A poll was released by the Bay Area Council showing strong support of Californians for funding higher ed and possibly a ballot initiative to do so.  When you read the poll question, it is clearly a push-poll, i.e., designed to suggest both a problem and a solution:

“To guarantee admission for qualified California students, place strict limits on tuition increases, continue tuition-free education for low-income students, and increase access to courses needed to graduate at University of California and California State Universities, should the state constitution be amended to establish a minimum level of state funding with accountability and oversight?”

It would be hard to imagine NOT getting endorsement of what is being suggested. But does that inevitable outcome mean that the poll has no significance? It does have significance in that the poll was paid for and supported by the Bay Area Council, a Bay Area business group with a lot of high-tech representation. In short, influential folks in a high profile sector are uneasy about how the state is managing its higher ed institutions and think that something better could be done.

The Council’s own report on the poll may be found here.  Among the findings:

  • 63 percent of voters say they would support a ballot initiative to guarantee stable funding for the University of California and California State University systems.
  • 81 percent of voters want guaranteed admission to both UC and CSU schools for qualified California students. Support for increasing access to courses needed for graduation was even higher, coming in at 83 percent.
  • Support was highest among voters in the state’s biggest population centers, with 72 percent approval among Bay Area voters and 71 percent among voters in Los Angeles County. Sacramento was far less inclined to support the measure, with only 48 percent approval.
  • Among ethnic groups, support spiked with Asian voters at 87 percent with Hispanic/Latino voters not far behind at 82 percent. The poll found 56 percent of white/Caucasian voters approving the measure.
  • 72 percent of voters favor a guarantee that the amount of tuition a student pays would remain the same for up to six years.
  • 41 percent of respondents said they have personally have attended or currently attend a UC or CSU school.
  • 50 percent of respondents said they have an immediate family member that attended or currently attend a UC or CSU school.

“Californians want more from their higher education system, but they also recognize our higher education system needs more support,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, which sponsored the poll. “Our public higher education system is the headwater of our innovation economy, but the snowpack of state funding that feeds UC and CSU has been getting thinner and thinner. Guaranteeing a minimum level of state funding would provide some stability for our higher education systems and protect students and families against the constant threat of increasing tuition.”

“Voters are clear – they understand the importance of California’s jewel of a higher education system,” said Lenny Mendonca, director emeritus of McKinsey and Company and a former Chair of the Bay Area Council. “They love the Master Plan; expect the UC, CSU and community colleges to provide access and deliver it; and the state to ensure we have the financial resources to do so.”

According to the Council’s website,

The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored, public policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area. The Council proactively advocates for a strong economy, a vital business environment, and a better quality of life for everyone who lives here.

Founded in 1945, as a way for the region’s business community and like-minded individuals to concentrate and coordinate their efforts, the Bay Area Council is widely respected by elected officials, policy makers and other civic leaders as the regional voice of business in the Bay Area.

Today, more than 275 of the largest employers in the region support the Bay Area Council and offer their CEO or top executive as a member.

The group’s executive committee includes, among others, the CEOs of Clorox, Pacific Gas and Electric, Virgin America, Mechanics Bank, the Federal Reserve of San Francisco, the San Francisco Giants, and the Golden State Warriors.

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