SUCCESS & VOTER
APPROVAL RATES

While the average "Yes" vote is comparable for California (61%) and National (62%) library referenda, the success rate is considerably lower in California (53%) versus 80% nationally.

NATIONAL


 

% Measures

Passed 

% Average

Yes Vote 
Buildings: 

78% 

63% 

Operating: 

82% 

61% 

Combined: 

80% 

62% 



Since the data collection is voluntary, it is reasonable to assume that the success rate is actually somewhat lower than reported above simply because libraries are less likely to report campaigns which fail than those which succeed.

CALIFORNIA


 

% Measures

Passed 

% Average

Yes Vote 
All Campaigns 

53% 

61% 


The overall lower success rate in California is due to a large extent to the 2/3's super-majority requirement for many ballot measures.

This finding is supported by the following data which shows that ballot measures which require only 51% to pass are approved 73% of the time compared to those which require a two-thirds majority which pass only 43% of the time:

 

% Measures

Passed 

% Average

Yes Vote 
All Campaigns 

53% 

61% 

Majority (51 %) 

73% 

58% 

Super-majority (67%) 

43% 

62% 


It is noteworthy to mention that only 14 of the California library referenda received less than 50% of the vote, which means that 83% of the ballot measures would have passed if a simple majority were required for all issues.



LIBRARY JOURNAL
YEARLY SUMMARIES

Nationally, the success and failure rates for library referenda are broken down by each year of data collection and summarized for building campaigns and operating levies:
NATIONAL SUMMARY OF REFERENDA FOR PUBLIC LIBRARY BUILDINGS

As Reported in Library Journal 1987-1995

YEAR 

PASS 

FAIL 

AMOUNT 

PRO 

CON 

GEN 

SPEC 

YES 

NO 

1995 

45 

87% 

13% 

$169,077,636 

65% 

35% 

64% 

36% 

49% 

51% 

1994 

53 

72% 

28% 

244,389,778 

61% 

39% 

53% 

47% 

36% 

64% 

1993 

56 

75% 

25% 

185,874,983 

61% 

39% 

64% 

36% 

45% 

55% 

1992 

23 

74% 

26% 

227,665,000 

59% 

41% 

65% 

35% 

43% 

57% 

1991 

46 

85% 

15% 

348,420,142 

63% 

37% 

65% 

35% 

54% 

46% 

1990 

49 

80% 

20% 

182,755,394 

65% 

35% 

59% 

41% 

51% 

49% 

1989 

51 

75% 

25% 

394,759,648 

61% 

39% 

65% 

35% 

41% 

59% 

1988 

45 

64% 

36% 

138,475,602 

61% 

39% 

60% 

40% 

58% 

42% 

1987 

54 

93% 

7% 

241,927,899 

69% 

31% 

69% 

31% 

67% 

33% 

ALL  422  78%  22%  $2,133,346,082  63%  37%  63%  37%  50%  50% 
NATIONAL SUMMARY OF REFERENDA FOR LIBRARY OPERATING FUNDS

YEAR 

PASS 

FAIL 

AMOUNT 

PRO 

CON 

GEN 

SPEC 

YES 

NO 

1995 

70 

74% 

26% 

$ 50,784,463 

60% 

40% 

67% 

33% 

61% 

39% 

1994 

54 

93% 

7% 

$ 79.096.450 

63% 

37% 

67% 

33% 

87% 

13% 

ALL 

124 

82% 

18% 

$129,880,913 

61% 

39% 

67% 

33% 

73% 

27% 


SUCCESS RATE BY PURPOSE OF MEASURE

Purchasing new technology, expanding library operations and modifying libraries for handicapped access had the highest success rates. Recognize that those categories with only a few campaigns may not be statistically significant. 

CALIFORNIA

 

% Measures

Passed 

% Average

Yes Vote 

# of

Campaigns 
    LIBRARY MATERIALS 
    Purchase More Materials 
    57% 
    67% 
    Maintain Collections 
    50% 
    66% 
    14 
    NEW PROGRAMS/TECHNOLOGY 
    Purchase New Technology 
    100% 
    73% 
    Create New Programs 
    50% 
    66% 
    LIBRARY OPERATIONS 
    Expand Library Operations 
    100% 
    79% 
    Restore and Maintain Operations 
    64% 
    62% 
    11 
    Maintain Library Operations 
    40% 
    61% 
    20 
    Create New Library Operations 
    33% 
    50% 
    LIBRARY FACILITIES 
    Modify for Handicapped 
    100% 
    73% 
    Renovate Old Facilities 
    73% 
    62% 
    Expand Existing Facilities 
    56% 
    63% 
    Maintain Facilities 
    30% 
    58% 
    10 
    Build a New Facility 
    29% 
    62% 


SPECIAL & GENERAL ELECTIONS

There may be a slight advantage for library measures held during lower turnout elections.

NATIONAL

Capital 

63% of all capital referenda are held during general elections.

% of Measures

Passed 
Special 

84% 

General 

75% 

Operating 
67% of all operating levy referenda are held during general elections. 

% of Measures

Passed 
Special 

83% 

General 

82% 

CALIFORNIA

 

% of Measures

Passed 

Average %

Yes Vote 
General Election* 

51% 

61% 

Primary Election* 

50% 

58% 

Special Election* 

61% 

61% 

All Elections 

53% 

61% 

* These figures are not statistically meaningful without more data.



BALLOT COMPETITION

It does not appear that competition on the ballot, in and of itself, is significant in predicting the success or failure of a library ballot measure.

NATIONAL  

Capital 

Operating 

CALIFORNIA

There's no evidence that ballot competition hurts library measures:

% of Measures

Passed 

Average %

Yes Vote 
With Competition 

62% 

63% 

Without Competition 

44% 

59% 

What may matter more is whether or not competing issues have a high degree of negative sentiment with the electorate.

If another issue on the ballot at the same time as the library issue brings out a very high number of "No" voters because of their dislike for the issue, they are unfortunately also likely to vote "No" on the library issue as well.



TENDENCY TO SUPPORT OTHER PUBLIC SERVICES

CALIFORNIA

It is very important if the community has a tendency in general to support public services: 

The success rate for library measures in communities that tended to financially support schools was much higher than in those that did not support school measures.

% of Measures

Passed 

Average %

Yes Vote 
Supports School Measures 

68% 

65% 

Doesn't Support Schools 

20% 

51 % 


In those communities which had a history of passing school measures, library measures passed 68% of the time with an average "Yes" vote of 65%, while in those communities which had a history of turning school measures down, library measures passed only 20% of the time and receive only 51% of the vote.

There are similar correlations, although less dramatic, for support of police and fire measures.



FUNDING SOURCES FOR
BALLOT MEASURES

NATIONAL

Capital 

Operating 

86%  Ad valorem property taxes 
7%  Special or "Parcel" taxes 
4%  Special or "Benefit" assessments 
2%  Sales taxes 
1%  Utility taxes 

CALIFORNIA


In California, the most common source of revenue is from "parcel" taxes: 

36%  Parcel Tax 
15%  SalesTax 
14%  General Obligation Bonds 
11 %  Benefit Assessment 
6%  Appropriations Limit 
1%  Excise Tax 
  


SUCCESS RATES BY
VARIOUS FUNDING SOURCES

NATIONAL

No Data Available.

CALIFORNIA

The success rate varies for the different funding sources:

%

Passed 

%

Yes Vote 
Benefit Assessments 

67% 

60% 

New Parcel Taxes 

47% 

62% 

General Obligation Bonds 

45% 

62% 

New Sales Taxes 

45% 

50% 

Excise Tax 

0% 

52% 

Benefit assessments have fared the best since they may be put into effect with a simple majority (50% plus 1) vote.


The success rate drops off significantly for parcel taxes, G.O. bonds and sales taxes to below a 50% approval rate.


The reality in California has been that if the ballot measure requires a two-thirds super-majority, the chance of success is below fifty/fifty.
 


CITY VERSUS COUNTY
SUCCESS RATES 

NATIONAL

No Data Available.

CALIFORNIA

City-wide measures did significantly better than county-wide measures: 

% Measures

Passed 

Average %

Yes Vote 
City Measures 

67% 

63% 

County Measures 

39% 

58% 


Two-thirds of the time, city-wide library measures succeeded compared to a success rate of only 39% for county-wide measures.


This information has serious implications for funding county-wide library activities with funds generated from ballot measures.



USE OF PROFESSIONAL
CAMPAIGN CONSULTANTS 

NATIONAL

No Data Available.

CALIFORNIA

Only a quarter of the campaigns sampled used a professional consultant, and less than half of these reported heavy use of their consultant's services.


The utilization of campaign consultants significantly increases not only the average "Yes" vote for a campaign (by almost 10%), but also significantly increases the chance of success (a 20% difference).


In short, campaigns which utilized a campaign consultant passed two-thirds of the time, while those campaigns which did not use a consultant passed less than 50% of the time:
 

% of Measures

Passed 

Average %

Yes Vote 
Campaign Consultant  

68% 

67% 

No Campaign Consultant  

48% 

58% 


Heavy involvement by a campaign consultant,   
improves the outcome even more:  
High Consultant Involvement  

70% 

72% 

Medium Consultant Involvement  

50% 

62% 

Low Consultant Involvement  

50% 

60% 


While it's no guarantee of success, investing in a campaign consultant, and doing so heavily, pays off by significantly improving the chances of success for library measures.

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