TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Evans/McDonough Company, Inc.
DATE: April 4, 2006
RE: Yolo County Voter Survey: Countywide and District by District Analysis
This memorandum summarizes the results of a countywide survey of likely voters in
Yolo County, completed on March 5, 2006 and conducted by Evans/McDonough
Company Incorporated (EMC), a full service opinion research and strategic consulting firm
serving a broad range of corporate, political and institutional clients. A summary of the
methodology, sample size, and margin of error can be found at the end of the
U.S. Eminent Domain Ruling
Before discussing the Yolo County issue specifically, respondents were read a brief
description of the Kelo vs. New London 2005 Supreme Court ruling, and asked whether
they support or oppose the Courtís decision. Four out of five likely voters countywide
(79%) strongly oppose the courtís ruling, with another 9% somewhat opposing the
decision. Supervisorial District 2 registered the strongest opposition (77% strongly
oppose/13% somewhat oppose), followed by District 4 (73% strongly oppose/16%
somewhat oppose), District 1 (67% strongly oppose/18% somewhat oppose), District 5
(57% strongly oppose/22% somewhat oppose), and finally District 3 (52% strongly
oppose/28% somewhat oppose). It is worthwhile to note that even in the Supervisorial
District with the comparatively weakest opposition to the Courtís ruling, four out of five
likely voters there (80%) still oppose it.
Eminent Domain & Conaway Ranch
Following the questioning about the Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain, all
survey respondents were read an initial description of the issue of ownership of Conaway
ranch, followed by a question that asked them if they support or oppose the Countyís
efforts to condemn Conaway Ranch.
Conaway Ranch is a 17 thousand three hundred acre piece of land in Yolo County, in the triangle
formed by the cities of Woodland, Davis, and West Sacramento. More than two thirds of the Ranch
is in a federal floodplain, and nearly half is in the Yolo Bypass. Currently, the privately owned
Conaway Ranch is leased to local farmers and a duck club. Yolo County is interested in owning
and managing Conaway Ranch, but the owners are not interested in selling.
Recently, Yolo County decided to use its power of eminent domain to seize the Conaway Ranch from
the current ownership group, the Conaway Preservation Group, who does not want to sell the
Ranch. Eminent domain, or condemnation, allows the government to take private property for a
public use for fair market value without the consent of the owner.
After being given this information and asked whether they support or oppose the
countyís condemnation action, support is at just 23%, with 71% in opposition. Opposition
is particularly strong in Supervisorial Districts 5 (82% oppose) and 3 (81% oppose). Just
over three-quarters (76%) of the residents in Supervisorial District 1 oppose the countyís
action, followed by 64% in District 4, and finally 56% in District 2.
Respondents were then read the following description of the Rumsey Band of Wintun
Indiansí involvement in the Countyís eminent domain action:
The Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians, which owns the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Yolo County,
has agreed to finance the countyís eminent domain action to acquire the Ranch.
Involvement by the tribe does essentially nothing to shore up support for the countyís
position: Following this information, 20% support the county position (a 3 point drop from the prior
question), while opposition drops slightly to 69%. The strongest opposition remains in District 5
(78%), which is joined by District 1 (78%), followed by District 3 (71% opposed), District 4
(63%) and District 2 (56%).
Over the remainder of the survey, a campaign was simulated in which respondents
heard several arguments being used by each side of the issue. Every effort was made to
present the issue in a fair and balanced manner, with the arguments being stated as their
proponents have been using them in free and paid media and other public information
The countyís eminent domain action following the campaign simulation exercise
gathers support from one-third of county voters (33%), with a majority (61%)
remaining in opposition. Supervisorial District 1 voters have the highest level of
opposition to the county action, at 74% opposed and 21% supporting, District 5 ends
up at 72% opposed and 23% support, District 3 ends at 71% oppose and 21%
support, District 4 at 52% opposed and 41% support, and District 2 voters are still
the most supportive of the plan (in fact, the only District with majority support), at
42% opposed and 53% support.
Following the campaign simulation, respondents were asked how important it was to
them that candidates for the Board of Supervisors agree with their position on Conaway
Ranch. Countywide, 91% of likely voters thought that it was important (48% thought it
was very important). This holds true across all Supervisorial Districts, with 95% in
District 4 thinking its important (50% very important), 93% in District 1 thinking its
important (52% very important), 90% in District 5 thinking its important (52% very
important), 89% in District 3 thinking its important (51% very important), and 86% in
District 2 thinking its important (34% very important).
By and large, the voters of Yolo County side with the current owners by a wide margin
over the county in the dispute over Conaway Ranch. They question the necessity of
eminent domain for preservation of current land uses, as well as the propriety of the
involvement of the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians. This places the burden of proof
squarely on the county to show that their actions are appropriate and necessary. Given the
results of this survey, the county may find it impossible to overcome the strong opposition
to their eminent domain action.
This memorandum is based on a survey of five hundred eighty five (585) likely voters in Yolo County,
California conducted March 1 through 5 by trained, professional interviewers, which has a margin of error of
plus or minus four point one (4.1) percentage points at the 95% confidence interval. Quotas were set in each
of the four incorporated cities in the county in order to insure there were enough interviews to analyze for
each area. For analysis, countywide results were weighted back to the actual population distribution.