Secession backer says poll shows majority of San Bernardino County voters support the move

Secession backer says poll shows majority of San Bernardino County voters support the move
Photo by frank mckenna / Unsplash

The man who first proposed San Bernardino County secede from California says voters are ready to do so — and he says he has the survey data to prove it. “I think it’s going to be a super-majority,” real estate developer Jeff Burum said of the expected Nov. 8 vote on a ballot measure that would authorize the Board of Supervisors to investigate steps up to and including secession from the state as a means to improve the county’s revenue stream.

If the election were held today, Burum said, his survey shows that 53% of respondents would vote for secession. Experts, however, caution against reading too much into early polling.

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“I don’t care if people think we can secede or not. That was never the point of this,” said Burum, who brought the secession idea to the Board of Supervisors in late July. “It’s time for us to stand up and get our fair share.”

Earlier this week, the board unanimously approved referring the matter to voters. On Nov. 8, voters will be asked if they want to direct the board to “study and advocate for all options to obtain the county’s fair share of State funding up to and including secession from the State of California.”

Some supervisors have said repeatedly they are not in favor of actual secession, but the discussion attracted support from the mayors of Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, and Upland. The county sheriff and district attorney also weighed in, saying Tuesday, Aug. 9, they believe the county has been deprived of needed state resources.

To see if voters agree, Burum hired Wallin Opinion Research, which has offices in Washington, D.C., and Irvine. Between July 27 and July 31, the firm surveyed 400 San Bernardino County residents by phone and email, according to a memo prepared by the research firm.

Among the questions asked:

  • “This November, San Bernardino County voters may have the opportunity to vote on a countywide ballot measure that, if passed, would have the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and all federal and state elected officials representing citizens within San Bernardino County to seek approval of Congress and the State Legislature to form a State separate from California, consisting of the region defined by the boundaries of the County of San Bernardino. If the election were held today, would you vote yes, to pass a ballot measure, or no, to reject it?” According to the memo, 53% of respondents said yes.
  • “Do you approve or disapprove of the job the California State Legislature is doing?” According to the report, 52.2% of respondents said they disapproved.
  • “Should the County of San Bernardino demand our fair share of the state funds to which we are entitled, even if it requires legal action against the state of California?” According to the memo, 75% of respondents said yes.
  • “Regardless of how you feel about the ballot measure, do you feel that the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors should at least study the idea, potential benefits to San Bernardino residents and businesses, and if enacting it would even be possible?” According to the memo, 65.2% of respondents said the study should be conducted.

But according to the memo, the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%, due to the small number of people surveyed. So experts are dubious about the survey’s conclusions.

“Single results from small surveys conducted by or transmitted by advocates should always be treated with caution,” Andrew Sinclair, an assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, wrote in an email. “While interesting, this alone is not a strong piece of evidence about public attitudes towards this proposal.”

Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at University of La Verne, agreed.

“At best, this is an early snapshot or initial reaction,” she wrote in an email.

The measure has already generated a backlash, including a letter sent by three San Bernardino County legislators hours after the board’s vote Tuesday. Assembly majority leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-Colton, state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, and Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, called the measure a waste of time and said it was based on faulty information.

“In 2022 alone, we collectively brought over $65 million indirectly allocated budget asks the Inland Empire. In 2020, nearly one-third of San Bernardino County revenues consisted of state dollars,” the letter reads in part. “Advocating for more resources is something that can be, and should be, done by the supervisors today without this measure.”

The measure also gives supporters false hope, the lawmakers said, as secession would almost certainly be rejected by the state Legislature and Congress. Both would have to approve secession.

Burum said he welcomes the criticism.

“The more they run negative about it, the more that it’ll pass,” he said. “People will see they’re trying to be manipulated. … Look at who is trying to stop you from getting your fair share, and why.”

According to Burum, the funds the legislators have delivered to the county have just been “scraps.”

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This article originally appeared in the San Bernardino Sun

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