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Opponents of the $11.2 billion water bond slated for the November ballot are touting the results of a poll showing 55 percent of Californians voters would vote no on the measure.

About a third of the 600 likely California voters polled said they support the measure, with 11 percent saying they were still undecided on the bond, which was part of the legislative water package passed last fall. The results showed similar trends among voters in various demographic and regional groups, the pollsters said.

"Voters recognize this bond as bad water policy and bad fiscal policy at a time when California is drowning in red ink," the Sierra Club California's Jim Metropulos, who is involved in the campaign to oppose the bond, said in a statement. "We need clean water and we need a better water policy, but this bond is not going to get us there."

The poll was quickly criticized by a coalition of business and environmental groups that has formed in support of the bond.

"The poll results quoted by opponents in their press release are based on one question from a longer poll, with no information about prior questions which could have tainted the results," said Jim Earp, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs and co-chair of the Alliance for Clean Water and Jobs, two groups supporting the measure.

Even so, advocates of the bond admit persuading voters to approve the borrowing could be an uphill battle. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said yesterday that a successful campaign could be "very challenging."

Earp also acknowledged the challenge ahead, but said the group has a "very broad coalition behind the measure" and will campaign hard for victory in November.

"Our polling shows we have a close race at the present time, that voters understand our state faces major water challenges, and that voters will support the bond once they hear the facts," he said.

An excerpt of the poll, conducted by Tulchin Research, was released yesterday. The poll was paid for by a coalition of environmental and consumer groups opposing the bond, including Sierra Club California, Clean Water Action, Planning and Conservation League, the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Southern California Watershed Alliance and Restore the Delta.

Opponents said they plan to open a campaign committee to fund their efforts in the coming days.


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