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Supporters of the initiative to rewrite the state’s unfair competition law say a poll they commissioned in March shows voters favor the measure 2-1. Christy Wilson, assistant vice president of Goddard Claussen Strategic Advocacy in Roseville, Calif., the group charged with promoting Proposition 64, said the poll of 800 likely voters was conducted March 17-21, well before the initiative qualified for the November ballot. The poll was conducted by Voter Consumer Research Inc., a Houston-based firm. Wilson said respondents were surveyed by telephone and given a summary of the initiative aimed at putting limits on suits under the state’s Business & Professions Code §17200. Respondents were also asked a series of questions designed to measure their support for the idea of 17200 reform. Prop 64 would require individuals to show actual injury in order to file suit and require that suits on the public’s behalf be brought by the attorney general or local public officials. It would also require any penalties recovered to be used for enforcement of consumer protection laws. According to Wilson, 64 percent of those polled said they would support the measure, while 30 percent opposed it, and 6 percent were undecided. “This confirms that this is actual reform that makes sense,” said Wilson, of the polling results. “People understand that someone should have had to have been harmed to file a lawsuit.” Jamie Court, chairman of ElectionWatchdog.org, said the polling data doesn’t mean the initiative will win. “Rule of thumb with an initiative is. if you want to win, you better start out with a 70 percent rate or more,” said Court, a veteran of multiple initiative campaigns. “If all we do with the public is showing who’s against and who’s for it and what the initiative does based on the title and summary, they get their ass kicked,” Court added. So far, big contributors to the pro-Prop 64 campaign include hundreds of car dealers and Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft Corp. and Nike Inc. Opponents include the state’s consumer attorneys. They are lying low as a group, instead making individual contributions aimed at defeating the measure. Among those taking the lead in publicly opposing the initiative are the Sierra Club, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Planning and Conservation League. Robert Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, cautioned against taking too seriously an early poll on a very complex issue. “Campaigns make a tremendous difference with voters,” said Stern. With a complicated issue on a crowded ballot, “voters are going to be relying a lot on endorsements, which groups oppose and support the measure, and unfortunately, on television ads.” Stern pointed to the examples of Propositions 57 and 58, which voters approved in March. He said those propositions show how a campaign — particularly one supported by Schwarzenegger — can sway public opinion. Both the Economic Bond Recovery Act and the California Balanced Budget Act gained voter support, largely as a result of Schwarzenegger’s very public support. “If he comes out for this initiative, it’s a big boost,” said Stern.

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