USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll: Majority of Californians Want Do-Over on High-Speed Rail Vote

September 30, 2013

Thirty-nine percent of Californians say high-speed rail would be their preferred mode of travel between Southern California and the Bay Area.

Contact: Suzanne Wu at suzanne.wu@usc.edu or (213) 740-0252 or Merrill Balassone atbalasson@usc.edu or (213) 740-6156

September 28, 2013 — With California’s largest public works project still months away from breaking ground, seven out of 10 voters want another chance to vote on whether the state’s high-speed rail project should continue, according to the results of a new poll.

Seventy percent of voters said they wanted another chance to vote on whether the high-speed rail project should continue, as opposed to 27 percent who disagreed, according to the results of the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

More than half of voters, 52 percent, said California’s high-speed rail project should be stopped, as opposed to 43 percent who want the project to go forward.

In 2008, California voters approved a ballot proposition to borrow $9 billion to help fund a high-speed rail line, which is supported by Governor Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama.

“It’s clear that most people who want a chance to vote again want that chance in order to change their vote,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of theUnruh Institute of Politics at USC.

For a video of Schnur and Los Angeles Times reporter Ralph Vartabedian, click here.

As proposed, the 520-mile train will go through the Central Valley, eventually connecting the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles. The fastest trip between the two largest cities in the state would take 2 hours and 40 minutes, and cost about $120 one way.

A slim majority, 51 percent, agreed that high-speed rail was a waste of taxpayer dollars; 45 percent of voters disagreed.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of buyers’ remorse,” said David Kanevsky, research director of Republican polling firm American Viewpoint, which conducted the poll on behalf of USC and the Los Angeles Times with Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. “Voters are saying this is a ‘nice-to-have project’, not a ‘need-to-have project.’”

But voters also believe high-speed rail could have benefits. When asked whether high-speed rail would reduce traffic on highways and at airports, 61 percent agreed and 36 percent disagreed.

Sixty-five percent of voters said high-speed rail would create jobs, as opposed to 32 percent who disagreed with that statement.

Nearly four in 10 Californians said high-speed rail would be their preferred mode of transportation between the Bay Area and Southern California: 39 percent of Californians said they would prefer to take high-speed rail if they needed to make the trip, compared to 32 who prefer to fly and 26 percent who would prefer to drive.

“Most voters want to stop this high-speed rail project, but it may be more of an objection to the execution than to the concept,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. “A plurality of voters would choose high-speed rail over flying or driving, and the data indicate there’s a bloc of people who would want the chance to vote again, but might be looking for a better approach rather than doing away with the idea altogether.”

Voters were also asked about Elon Musk’s “Hyperloop” concept, which would transport people at high speeds through an above-ground tube system in capsules. Nearly 3 in 4 voters said they knew “little or nothing” about the concept as opposed to 26 percent who said they knew “a lot or some” about it.

When asked if they would use Hyperloop at a cost of $20 one-way for a 30-minute trip, 55 percent of voters said they would take Hyperloop as compared to 13 percent who would take the high-speed train, 14 percent who would drive and 13 percent who would fly.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted September 18-24, 2013. The full sample of 1,500 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Additional poll results and methodology are available here.

WEBSITE: http://dornsife.usc.edu/poll
TWITTER: @usclatpoll

About the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll: The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is a series of statewide public opinion polls in California, designed to survey voter attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues.

Conducted at regular intervals throughout the year, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is one of the largest polls of registered voters in the state and has been widely cited, helping to inform the public and to encourage discourse on key political and policy issues.

About USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university. The largest, oldest and most diverse of USC’s 19 schools, USC Dornsife is composed of more than 30 academic departments and dozens of research centers and institutes. USC Dornsife is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 750 faculty members with expertise across the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

About the Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of 2 million and 3 million on Sunday, and a combined print and interactive local weekly audience of 4.5 million. The fast-growing latimes.com draws over 10 million unique visitors monthly.