Statewide Surveys of Californians on Public Attitudes Toward the Single Payer Ballot Initiatives (Proposition 186)

California Election Night Survey On Ballot Initiatives

Anti-government Mood Defeats Proposition 186

A Perception That Undocumented Persons Use Costly Services Drives Vote For Proposition 187

Embargoed for release: 12:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 15, 1994

For more information contact: Matt James or Tina Hoff

Menlo Park, CA — A Kaiser/Harvard survey of Californians in the 1994 election has found that the principal reason voters rejected Proposition 186, the state single payer initiative, was their concern that it would give government too much control of the health care system. These findings echo results from national surveys, which show a broad anti-government mood in the country.

The Kaiser/Harvard survey also looked at California voters opinions on Proposition 187, a proposal to limit services to undocumented persons and Proposition 188, a proposal to override local anti-smoking laws funded primarily by tobacco interests.

Proposition 186

By a margin of almost three to one (73 percent against and 27 percent in favor), Californians voted against the single payer plan. Fifty-seven percent of those who voted against Proposition 186 cited too much government involvement as the primary reason for their vote. Approximately one third of those who voted against the plan thought that the proposal would decrease the quality of their medical care (15 percent) or would increase the cost of their health care (14 percent).

“The themes struck by the opponents of the single payer initiative resonated loud and clear with California voters,” said Matt James, Vice President, Kaiser Family Foundation. “With the anti-government mood so strong, the timing for Proposition 186 could not have been worse.”

“Results of California voters show very definitively that though Americans see many things wrong with the health care system, they are ultimately not willing to turn the solution over to public sector agencies. Arguments about the success of either Medicare or our neighbors to the north fall on deaf ears in a climate where Americans have such little faith in their government,” said Dr. Robert Blendon, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard University.

Among those who voted for Proposition 186, most said they did so because everyone in the state would have health insurance (39 percent). The next highest reason provided was because they believed the “health care system would be fairer” (16 percent). Only 15 percent gave “eliminating the role of insurance companies,” a major theme in the proponents’ campaign, as the reasoning behind their vote.

Republicans (95 percent), conservatives (82 percent) and business people (80 percent) were among the groups who most strongly opposed Proposition 186. Hispanics (64%), those uninsured (58 percent) and Democrats (54 percent) were among the groups who most strongly supported the single payer initiative.

Proposition 187

Californians passed Proposition 187 (59 percent in favor and 41 percent against), a proposal to limit services for undocumented persons. What has not been available to date is what voters’ principal reasons were for supporting this measure. The poll shows that the most important reason (61 percent) given by those who voted for this proposition was the belief that undocumented persons use services that cost citizens too much money. The second most important reason (27 percent) were those who believed that “we have to do something to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into our country.”

As reported, a minority of voters cast their ballots against this measure. Of those, 38 percent said that the fact that it would have been unfair was the primary reason they voted against 187. The second most important reason among opponents (25 percent) was a concern about the potential problems the children of undocumented persons may face if they were excluded from public schools.

Our survey showed that Republicans (73 percent) and business people (64 percent) were among the groups most in favor of Proposition 187, and that Hispanics (94 percent) and Democrats (71 percent) were among the groups most opposed to the proposal. Women (56 percent), liberals (85%) and National Public Radio listeners (63 percent) also opposed the proposal, while men (67 percent), conservatives (76 percent) and Rush Limbaugh listeners (72 percent) generally supported the proposition.

Proposition 188

Californians rejected Proposition 188 (70 percent against and 30 percent in favor), a proposal to override local anti-smoking laws by a statewide provision. Among those most strongly opposed to Proposition 188 were people in households in which someone worked in the health care field (77 percent), liberals (73 percent) and women (68%). Those most strongly in favor of the provision were Hispanics (53 percent), Rush Limbaugh listeners (46 percent), and those with lower incomes (44 percent).

Our survey found that 77 percent of Californians had seen or heard advertisements in favor of Proposition 188. Of these respondents, 85 percent correctly stated that tobacco interests had put up the most money to support this proposition.


The Kaiser/Harvard Election Day Survey was a random-sample, telephone survey of adults in California who said they voted in the November 8, 1994 election. The sample consisted of 1,000 California voters. The survey was designed by the Harvard University School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management and the Kaiser Family Foundation, and was conducted by KRC Communications Research, a national opinion research firm located in Newton, Massachusetts. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, is an independent national health care philanthropy and is not associated with Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries. The Foundation’s work is focused on four main areas: health reform, reproductive health, HIV, and health and development in South Africa. The Foundation also maintains a special interest in health care in its home state of California. The Foundation took no position for or against Proposition 186.

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Statewide Surveys of Californians:
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