Politics

When it comes to ballot measures, voters tend to be very unselfish

Rosa Ayala checks her ballot after voting in the US presidential primary June 7, 2016 at Sabores de Oaxaca, a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, California.  / AFP / Michael Owen Baker        (Photo credit should read MICHAEL OWEN BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Rosa Ayala checks her ballot after voting in the US presidential primary June 7, 2016 at Sabores de Oaxaca, a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, California. / AFP / Michael Owen Baker (Photo credit should read MICHAEL OWEN BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
MICHAEL OWEN BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

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After studying up on California's 17 statewide propositions, voters must then contend with the many tax measures on the ballot. Depending on where you live, you might be asked to raise sales taxes, property taxes and/or income taxes.

Decades of social science research has shown that those tax increases have a good shot of passage, according to Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of social science and political science at Stanford University who studies voter psychology. Krosnick said voters tend to be unselfish at the ballot box, and vote largely without their own self-interest in mind – something researchers call "sociotropic voting."

"The vast majority of Americans think about politics in terms of what they think is best for groups of people, not for themselves," Krosnick said. 

He explained that most voters don't think government policies will have a direct impact on their lives, but that the policies can have big impact on their city, state or the nation as a whole. On spending measures, voters tend to think more about a measure's promised benefits, rather than the nitty gritty of what it will cost. 

“Quite often, they don’t know exactly what they’re going to pay so they need not and do not fear those numbers. So because of that ambiguity, they’re not that focused on their own pocketbooks,” said Krosnick. 

But, in case you're wondering about that nitty gritty, we've done some of the math for you.

Take Measure AA. Voters in Ventura County will decide if they want to raise the sales tax by half a percent to pay for transportation projects. If passed, merchandise sold in that county will be taxed at 8 percent, instead of 7.5 percent. Supporters would argue that half a percent is just a few extra pennies, especially on low-priced items. Opponents would say it has the potential to really add up over time.

Here's a nice middle-of-the-road purchase to illustrate the increased cost if AA passes.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Here&#39;s how Ventura County&#39;s Measure AA, a 30-year half-cent sales tax hike for transportation projects, will affect purchases there: <a href="https://t.co/rv2PBh9RbA">pic.twitter.com/rv2PBh9RbA</a></p>&mdash; 89.3 KPCC (@KPCC) <a href="https://twitter.com/KPCC/status/791723650214920192">October 27, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> compiled a partial list of some of the biggest sales tax measures on the ballot. Check the "municipality" column to see which ones are on your ballot.

And there's more below. Check the "municipality" column to see which tax measures impact you.

Sales tax breakdown: 

Measure Municipality Current sales tax Sales tax would increase to: How much more you would pay for a new Ipad ($500) How much more you'd pay for a new washing machine ($900) Annual funds generated Funds spent on:
Measure M LA County 9% 9.50% $2.50 $4.50 $860 million Street repairs, highway improvements and rail construction
Measure GSH Santa Monica 9.50% 10% $2.50 $4.50 $16 million General city services *a separate measure asks voters if the money should be split between schools and affordable housing
Measure AA Ventura County 7.50% 8% $2.50 $9 $70 million Transportation infrastructure maintenance, repair and construction
Measure SS Westminster 8% 9% $5.00 $9 $14 million General city services
Measure Z Riverside 8% 9% $5.00 $9 $48 million General city services
Measure S Downey 9% 9.5 $2.50 $4.50 $9 million General city services
Measure HH Fountain Valley 8% 9% $5 $9 $11 million General city services
Measure S Temecula 8% 9% $5 $9 $23 million General city services