Pension Poll Shows Voters Oppose Cutting Existing Pension Benefits, Statewide Ballot Measure

October 14, 2013

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: David Metz, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates

RE: California Voter Opposition to Cutting Retirement Benefits for Current Employees

DATE: October 14, 2013


Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates recently conducted a survey of California voters to assess their support for proposed changes to public employee pensions in California.  The survey results show that California voters overwhelmingly oppose the idea of cutting retirement benefits for current public employees, as shown below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Support for Allowing Public Employers to Unilaterally Cut Retirement Benefits for Current Employees

Opposition to unilateral cuts in public employee retirement benefits cuts across all segments of the California electorate.  Opponents include:

  • 73% of Democrats, 68% of independents, and even nearly half (47%) of Republicans;
  • 69% of women and 56% of men;
  • 68% of voters under age 50, and 60% of those age 50 and over;
  • 63% of whites, 62% of voters of color, and 56% of Latinos; and
  • At least a 54% majority of voters in each of the state’s four major media markets.

Much of this opposition stems from the fact that most California voters see no real need to reduce pension benefits for public employees.  As detailed below in Figure 2, most California voters either would like to see public employee pensions maintained or increased (54%) while fewer than two in five (38%) would like to see them reduced.

Figure 2: Preferred Approach to Public Employee Pensions

To the extent that changes to public employee pensions are to be made, voters would prefer that they be made at the local level, as opposed to the state.  As detailed in Figure 3, a 52-percent majority prefers that pension changes be dealt with as the local level, whereas only about one in three (36%) prefer a statewide approach.

Figure 3: Preference for Addressing Pension Issues at the State or Local Level

In addition, California voters make clear that they would prefer to see changes to public employee pension benefits at the state level be dealt with through negotiations between employers and employees.  Fewer than one in three voters (30%) would like to see such issues addressed through ballot measures.

Figure 4: Preferred Manner for Dealing with State-Level Changes to Pension Benefits


Methodology:  From February 13-18, 2013, FM3 conducted 800 telephone interviews with California voters likely to cast ballot in November 2014.  Interviews were conducted on landline and wireless phones.  The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 3.5%; margins of error for subgroups within the sample will be larger.