October 4, 2012 (Los Angeles)— Californians aren’t price sensitive when it comes to genetically modified foods, reveal the latest results of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. Even when presented with information about how much regulation might cost the cash-strapped state, a majority of voters support a November ballot initiative that would require new labeling for food that contains genetically modified ingredients. If approved by voters, the initiative would become the first of its kind in the United States.
Sixty-one percent of Californians favor Proposition 37 and labeling genetically engineered food, while 25 percent of voters are opposed. Forty-seven percent said they support the ballot initiative ‘strongly,’ and 16 percent were ‘strongly’ opposed.
“Something called ‘genetically modified food’ sounds really scary to people so it’s not surprising that support for the initiative is so strong,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “It’s going to take a very well-funded opposition campaign to get people to move past a visceral reaction against what that type of language represents to them. The opponents will have the debate about economics — that this proposition could raise the cost of groceries and make food more expensive.”
There have, in fact, been numerous serious health issues raised regarding the safety of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in foods. In Britain, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% after GM soy was introduced; cooked GM soy had seven times higher levels of a known soy allergen than non-GM soy. Mice fed GM soy developed immune responses to formerly harmless foods in addition to the GM soy. Animals fed GM foods have developed liver problems. Most alarmingly, studies have found high infant mortality levels and reproductive problems after rats were fed GM soy; in one study over half the children of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks. Dozens of American farms report sterility in pigs and cows fed BT corn, which contains the BT toxin. A GM supplement, L-Tryptophan, killed about 100 people in the U.S. before it was removed from the market. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11361.cfm
The poll found that younger voters overwhelmingly support the measure: Californians age 18-29 support the initiative by a margin of 73-20 percent. Among voters aged 30 to 39, support for Prop. 37 is 66-19 percent; age 40 to 49 support it by 60-29 percent; age 50 to 64 support it by 60-25 percent; with support slipping for ages 64 and over to 52-30 percent. Men support the initiative by 54-32 percent; women by 67-19 percent.
The poll further showed that support for the initiative is similar across education levels and demographics. Voters without a college degree favor the measure 62-24 percent; those with a college degree favor the measure 60-26 percent.
Registered Democrats favor the initiative by 66-19 percent; Republicans 49-35 percent; and voters with no party preference by a margin of 63-25 percent. Fifty-nine percent of White voters support Prop. 37 while 28 percent are opposed; of Black voters, 69 percent are in favor and 20 percent are opposed; of Latino voters, 67 percent are in favor and 19 percent oppose.
In a successive query, voters were provided with an explanation of how the initiative would financially impact the state, stating that costs to regulate labeling of genetically engineered food could be between a few hundred thousand dollars to more than one million dollars annually. Additional potential costs, the statement noted, could be incurred from litigation resulting from violations.
But learning about the fiscal impact of Prop. 37 only shifted voter responses slightly, and a majority of respondents remained in favor of labeling: 56 percent were in favor and 32 percent were opposed after hearing a statement about potential costs. Without the statement, 62 percent of voters supported the initiative and 25 percent opposed.
The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted from Sept. 17-23, 2012, by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,504 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.