November 4 2015

Californians Overwhelmingly Favor Using Proposition 47 Savings to Invest in Prevention; Survey Respondents Say Additional Criminal Justice Reforms Still Needed

A survey of 1,969 Californians commissioned by The California Endowment found that 67% of Californians would support the justice reform initiative Proposition 47 if it were on the ballot today.  The initiative, which reclassified six low-level felonies as misdemeanors and directed that state prison savings be redirected to health, education and prevention, was passed into law in November 2014 with 59 percent of voter support.

Since the measure was adopted, more than 160,000 Californians have begun the process of changing past felonies to misdemeanors, potentially opening new opportunities for jobs, education loans, housing benefits and more. The state of California and individual California counties have already saved tens of millions of dollars as a result of reduced jail overcrowding, according to the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project.

According to the survey conducted by the independent public opinion research agency Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3), 67 percent of Californians would support Proposition 47 if it were placed on the ballot today.

Support for Proposition 47 was strong across all demographic groups. The measure was backed by:

  • 68 percent of men and 66 percent of women;
  • 68 percent of Californians under age 50 and 65 percent age 50 and older;
  • 65 percent of Whites, 68 percent of Latinos, 69 percent of African Americans, and 72 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders; and
  • 76 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents, and 60 percent of Republicans.

“Despite a robust ‘no’ campaign one year ago and extensive debate since the measure’s enactment, support for Proposition 47 remains overwhelming,” said pollster David Metz, who led the FM3 research team.

In addition to supporting Proposition 47, the survey showed that Californians support additional efforts to reform the state’s criminal justice system. Sixty-one percent of respondents agreed that more reforms are still needed, compared with only nine percent who believe that California has already done too much (22 percent said California had done enough and eight percent had no opinion).

“Californians passed Proposition 47 because we are tired of ‘tough-on-crime’ policies that dole out harsh punishments and fail to make our communities any safer. Reducing the prison population is an important step forward. Now, this reduction must be coupled with investments in the communities most harmed by incarceration, funding community-based programs and services that prioritize prevention and help people get back on their feet,” said Emily Harris, State Field Director of the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

When presented with a menu of policy options designed to improve community safety, survey respondents favored prevention-oriented approaches above all others. In fact, the only option not to receive majority support in the survey was building more jails and prisons (45 percent support).

Proposals to increase support for programs that help young people stay out of trouble, such as Boys and Girls Clubs received the most support (95 percent), followed closely by job training programs (93 percent), increasing access to mental health services (92 percent), increasing access to substance abuse treatment programs (91 percent), improving lighting and other measures to improve neighborhood appearance (91 percent), improving access to parks and other opportunities for community recreation (89 percent), and preschool programs (86 percent).

Criminal justice reform advocates are celebrating the one-year anniversary of Proposition 47 this week with events and rallies in Oakland, Richmond, Sacramento, San Diego and other communities. In addition, more than 400 criminal justice leaders are gathering for a #SmartonSafety summit in downtown Los Angeles on November 4 to discuss next steps for criminal justice reform in California. The California Endowment is a cosponsor of the summit.

A memorandum prepared by FM3 describing results of the survey is available upon request.

About The California Endowment
The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental affordable improvements in the health status of all Californians. Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, The Endowment has regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and San Diego, with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people’s health. Through its ‘Health Happens Here’ campaign and ten-year initiative for Building Healthy Communities, The Endowment is creating places where children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. At its core, The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention. For more information, visit The California Endowment’s homepage at

Survey Methodology

From October 21 – November 1, 2015, FM3 completed 1,969 telephone interviews (on landlines and cell phones) with randomly-selected California adults.  Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.  The sample included 800 interviews with adults statewide, plus oversamples of adults in Sacramento, Contra Costa, Monterey, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties sufficient to complete 300 total interviews in each location.  Results have been statistically weighted to reflect the true geographic distribution of California adults.  The margin of sampling error for the statewide sample is +/-3.5% at the 95% confidence level; for the five oversampled counties, it is +/- 5.7%.  Margins of error for population subgroups within each sample will be higher. Due to rounding, not all totals will sum to 100%.


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