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Post-Prop. 37 Poll Shows Strong Public Support for Future GE Food Labeling
January 9th, 2013

Young voters, communities of color, women pushed landmark initiative to near win; more than one-fifth of ‘no’ voters favor GE labeling

An independent post-election poll shows that California voters continue to strongly support the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods in the wake of November’s vote on Proposition 37.  While the state’s hotly contested GE food labeling initiative was defeated by less than a 3 percent margin, a full 67% of voters continue to support the labeling of GE foods.  Noteworthy is the finding that 21% of all November 2012 California voters who voted against Prop. 37 report they support requiring labeling of GE foods, boosting prospects for future labeling efforts.

Commissioned by the Center for Food Safety Action Fund, the poll was conducted by the independent polling firm Lake Research. The survey found that every major demographic group, with the exception of Republican men, supports the concept of required labeling of genetically engineered foods.  Of special note, Prop. 37 won the Election Day vote 51% to 49%, but lost with early absentee voters 46% to 54% — an indication that early, high-volume attack advertising by Prop. 37 opponents was countered effectively by the “Yes” campaign’s late surge in GE food labeling information and outreach.

“Disinformation won the day, but it did not change the facts about what California voters think of GE food labeling,” said Rebecca Spector, west coast director at Center for Food Safety.  “This poll shows that the more the truth about Prop. 37 was received by voters, the more they voted for it.  It’s a certainty that once the money-induced cloud of doubt was lifted, many Californians viewed labeling of GE foods as the smart choice.”

According to the California Secretary of State’s office, chemical company and packaged food industry opponents of Prop. 37, including Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, PepsiCo and Kraft, outspent supporters of the initiative by more than $35 million dollars.

Based on the new poll, the strongest support for Prop. 37 came from Latinos (61% yes), Asians (61% yes), African Americans (56% yes) and Democratic women (60% yes).  As a group, Caucasian voters turned down the measure 58% to 42%.  Voters under 30 approved of the initiative (55% yes), as opposed to voters 65 years or older (61% no). Reflecting election results from the Secretary of State’s office, the initiative won in Los Angeles County (52% to 48%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (56% to 44%).

College-educated voters provided the surprise of the Prop. 37 vote and the poll.  While those with a college degree denied the initiative 45% to 55%, in the new survey this same group responded that it supports the concept of GE food labeling by the overwhelming margin of 68% to 27%.

“If there was ever any doubt, this poll confirms how powerful money is in the initiative process,” said Andrew Kimbrell, founder and executive director of Center for Food Safety.  “The advertising time and media exposure that a large chunk of corporate cash buys is so potent it can induce socially aware people to vote against their own interests, and the health and safety of their families.”

According to the Lake Research analysis, No on 37’s well-financed strategy of using a broad range of misleading anti-labeling arguments enabled them to build a coalition of voters who found something in the measure to oppose.  However, the fact that “Yes” won a strong majority of the late undecided vote and shored up solid support from a mixed constituency of voters bodes well for future GE food labeling actions in the state.

“The results of our poll show that voters continue to strongly support the concept of labeling,” said Robert G. Meadow, Ph.D., a partner at Lake Research Partners.  “The campaign simply was outspent.  Had the Yes side been able to communicate earlier in the campaign to answer attacks before nearly half the voters had voted, we believe the outcome would have differed.”

The statewide survey was conducted December 1-4, 2012. Lake Research Partners used telephone interviews with professional interviewers and online interviews with 803 California voters who stated that they voted on Proposition 37 in the November 2012, and agreed to disclose their vote on the proposition.  The margin of error for the base sample is ±3.46% and larger for sub-groups.

View summary of poll results

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About Center for Food Safety
Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon.  More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.

About Center for Food Safety Action Fund
Center for Food Safety Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is a separate sister organization of the Center for Food Safety. The mission of Center for Food Safety Action Fund is to protect human health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide range of food and environmental issues.

About Lake Research Partners
Lake Research Partners is a national public opinion and political strategy research firm founded by Celinda Lake in 1995. Its principals are leading information and political campaign strategists, serving as tacticians and senior advisors to a wide range of advocacy groups, labor unions, non-profits, government agencies, companies and foundations, as well as dozens of elected officials at all levels of the electoral process. The firm is national in scope, with offices in Washington, DC, New York, and California.

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