Paid for my opinion

On Wednesday evening I made my way to a local research company’s offices to be part of a panel discussion on a recently failed State proposition. The qualifier for this panel was mainly to have voted no for the proposition, which I had. There was a series of other questions, and I guess I filled the bill because I got included in the panel of 10 women of a “certain age.” Although some of the women were still working, three of us were retired. We also indicated that we all vote, all elections.

The proposition that had failed in the June election was for a $1 tax on every pack of cigarettes. The promotion had been mostly about how the money would be used for cancer research, but like the other ladies, and I guess other voters, I was skeptical. The money might not have even stayed in California. We were asked to look at the way the proposition had been worded, how it had been advertised, both for and against, and what we thought could have made it more palatable for us to vote YES.

After almost two hours, it came down to the fact that the backers of this proposition believed that increasing the tax on cigarettes would cause fewer young people to start smoking or continue to smoke because of the high cost. They seemed to have the figures to back this up from other states where the cigarette tax in significantly more than in California. We all laughed at this one. “What, California has one tax lower than the rest of the nation?”

The San Joaquin Valley is a tough audience for politicians. We do not vote like the rest of the state which tends to vote a liberal Democratic party line. The center of California is red, unlike its solid blue coastline. Even in the November election, where Proposition 30 (another tax hike proposition) easily passed, the central valley counties voted against it. We just don’t have the high numbers to make that much difference. For that reason, I was surprised that our opinion on any ballot measure would matter.

The final outcome was pretty much where it had been when we started: none of us would vote yes for the proposition, even with our new knowledge. As we left, we were each given a $75 gift card. The next group was waiting for their turn. It was made up of ten men, all of a “certain age.” Wonder if they changed their minds?

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One response to “Paid for my opinion

  1. Interesting. I wouldn’t mind being in one of those focus groups, especially if I received a gift card afterwards! :-)

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