This survey result is a great surprise to me:
Under the proposed measure, which could be on the June 2008 ballot, the presidential election would become, in essence, a congressional district-by-congressional district contest. The winner of the statewide popular vote would receive two electoral votes, but the remaining votes would go to the winner in each of the 53 congressional districts.
The proponents of the California ballot measure, largely Republicans, say such a change would make presidential elections more fair by more accurately reflecting the results of the popular vote. However, Democrats have railed against the proposal by charging that the measure is a Republican-driven effort to keep Democrats from capturing the White House...
The Field Poll found that 47 percent of registered voters back a change to California's system for electoral votes, with 35 percent opposed. Republicans generally support the change more than Democrats.
When pollsters explained the political implication that Democratic presidential candidates might lose some electoral votes under a proportional system, the numbers changed: 49 percent supported the change and 42 percent opposed it. Opposition from Democrats and independent voters rose when the issue was put this way.
It seems to me that California never supports ballot measures -- or at least they never support measures that favor the GOP. I find it stunning that a clear majority would voice support even knowing that it's a 'pro-GOP' measure.
While I'm encouraged though, I'd still bet good money that this initiative will fail. After all, Democrats have a far better machine to educate their voters and turn them out to the polls in California than the GOP does. Teachers' unions, government employees, and labor unions can be expected to do their part to preserve the power of their machine.
Another consideration is the fact that this may be portrayed as a proxy for the presidential race. By June of next year we will know who the nominees are. If Tom Tancredo is the GOP standard-bearer, Democrats will gladly frame this as a vote for or against Tancredo. If Giuliani headed the ticket, it would probably be tougher. Of course, since California is now a pretty blue state, they will likely have the advantage in any matchup of Republican vs. Democrat.
The one possible logistical edge for Republicans might be that this is targeted for the June ballot. The California Secretary of State's page does not make clear what else will be considered that day. If for example, there's a high-profile Republican primary that day and no corresponding Democratic race, that could give Republicans a turnout advantage.
Note: The original piece from the Chronicle is here.