Big money ballot measure campaigns in California spend the vast preponderance of their money on fairly traditional forms of voter outreach, such as television and radio ads and direct mail, but that will have to change as voters' habits evolve, a new study suggests.
The statistical study of how business-backed ballot measure campaigns spend their funds - contrasting with how commercial business now operates - was produced by Forward Observer, a Sacramento-based political consulting firm headed by Joe Rodota, a one-time top aide to Republican Govs. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as the Reagan White House.
It analyzed five 2012 business-supported ballot measure campaigns and found that they spent 78.5 percent of their funds on traditional media, and another 12.5 percent on direct mail appeals, with the remaining 9 percent distributed among consultants' fees, polling, legal services and miscellaneous costs.
Less than 1 percent was spent on digital messages, even though voters increasingly rely on the Internet and social media for news and discussion about political issues, even though business is increasingly oriented toward digital commerce and even though business groups provided much of the money spent by the ballot measure campaigns.
"The digitization of modern initiative campaigns is beginning and will accelerate," the report concludes. "Ballot committees must reassess how resources are allocated. To compete in the modern era of voter persuasion, funds should shift from television, radio and direct mail to digital campaigns - and the economic analysis, issues research and polling research functions that support them."
The five 2012 campaigns included in the study were in favor of Propositions 32 and 33 and against Propositions 29, 30 and 37.
Proposition 29, which would have raised cigarette taxes for cancer research, was defeated. Proposition 30, a sales and income tax increase sponsored by Gov. Jerry Brown, was approved. Proposition 32, which would have made it more difficult for unions to raise political money via payroll deductions, was defeated. Proposition 33, an insurance industry-backed measure to change criteria for setting auto insurance rates, was also defeated. Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of genetically modified foods, also lost.