As Californias become increasingly aware of the anti-affirmative action initiative on the November ballot and learn about its ramifications, support for the measure declines, according to a Field Poll released Monday (3-11). Knowledge of the existence of the self-titled “California Civil Rights Initiative” rose from 57 percent in December to 67 percent. Of those, support for the measure fell from 29 percent to 27 percent while opposition rose from 20 percent to 24 percent. According to the poll, when voters read the simple language of the bill they are more likely to support it because it does not mention the fact that it would outlaw affirmative action programs for women and people of color. “As voters learn about the initiative, sentiment is much more evenly divided than after you read them the rather simple language,” said Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s 1995 Women’s Equality Poll, conducted by Louis Harris and the Peter Harris Research Group, was the first poll to find the precipitous decline in support for the CCRI once voters realize it will outlaw affirmative action programs. The Campaign for Women’s Rights and Civil Rights, sponsored by the Feminist Majority and a coalition of more than 80 other organizations, is educating Californians on the issue in order to defeat the measure in November.
Although the San Francisco Chronicle article on the poll covered the issue of tricky language, it too referred to affirmative action programs misleadingly as “preferential treatment.” Similarly, an extensive front-page article in the Washington Post entitled “Struggling to Maintain Diversity: UC Berkeley Takes Steps to Offset Ban on Affirmative Action” made no mention of how eliminating affirmative action programs in the University of California system affects women.