All Tax Support Isn’t Equal (nor as expected)

Seeing the disparities in the support and opposition across varying aspects of a one cent sales tax questions we asked made me wonder – just who is supporting and opposing these items.  Since we often take for granted that these differences are due to party perspectives, I looked at the various tax questions we asked on our most recent poll (here).  I wasn’t able to provide comparisons to these tax questions because we changed a couple of the questions (although only slightly, and see the explanations below for why).  Regardless, with a few exceptions, these results are fairly consistent across these tax questions since last November (which is when we first asked these questions, see here).  But, it is those exceptions – support for extending the temporary tax and doing similarly to support education – that make you do a double-take, which is what I’m doing here.  As well, given the clamoring going on about cuts in education, we asked a new question on this survey to explore whether people in this state would increase the sales tax by one cent if it were dedicated to funding education.

For the question about eliminating jobs for current state employees, we’ve witnessed a steady increase in opposition to eliminating jobs.  Public opposition to this has increased from 56 percent in November to 60 percent this month.  While not totally earth shattering as far as magnitude, it is a trend nonetheless. And, though not supported across political persuasion, there are some numbers here to make you pause and wonder about it.

Perhaps the greatest surprise in these survey results from this past week is the change in support for extending the temporary sales tax for another year. But, before I continue, this is one of the questions we changed.  People simply weren’t happy with how we phrased the question in the past, which was: “to take care of this budget shortfall, would you [support or oppose] making the temporary one percent increase in the sales tax permanent?”  There really isn’t anything wrong with the question as we asked it, but some complained, and rightfully so, that the question was not specific with regard to the tax and time.  We had asked about a “one percent increase” and not about the tax, which is a “one cent increase”.  The other complaint about the question dealt with the temporal nature of the phrasing – we asked about making the tax permanent, not about simply extending it another year, which is how we phrased it this time (April).  Fair enough, and points well taken – we changed the question this time.  This time we asked the question about the temporary sales tax this way:  “to take care of this budget shortfall, would you [support or oppose] extending the temporary one cent sales tax for another year?”  And, of course, the results are different because the question is different!  But, the rephrasing does provide a sense of what the public is willing to do in order to address the state’s budget shortfall.  People in N.C. don’t want to permanently increase the sales tax by a penny, but are more than willing to do so for another year (73% support extending the sales tax). This willingness to help take care of the budget shortfall leads to our final observations about our tax questions.

Since education spending takes up a substantial portion of the state budget, we asked about this as well.  But, we asked an ‘earmark question’, i.e., we asked people if they would “. . . [support or oppose] increasing the state sales tax by one cent and dedicating the money to public education . . .”  to see if the public was willing to protect education from some of the proposed cuts revealed last week by the legislature.  This proposed option was supported overwhelmingly (though it may not be the way the state should approach program funding, at least on a permanent basis, but that is a discussion for another day).

So, all that discussion brings me to the reason for this post.  As survey researchers, when we see what we call ‘a lack of variation’, i.e., there is so much sentiment in one direction that there is unilateral support or opposition, it raises our curiosity because it means that some groups we’d believe, for a variety of reasons, would never support it, or always oppose it, aren’t.  In other words, when you see such sentiments, you want to know if the unconventional is happening.  For these tax questions, that would mean that Republicans are supporting increases in the sales tax for another year, as well as for education. Moreover, given the importance of moderates, unaffiliated, or Independents (choose your tag) to N.C.’s purple status, it is meaningful to find out which directions these people are going, i.e., for a tax increase, or not.

Let’s find out.  I’ve constructed tables for each of the tax questions we asked and delineated the support and opposition across self-identified political persuasion – Democrat, Independent, or Republican.  Remember, these are self-selected party placements, i.e., the party with which the person is aligning with at this point in time, and may or may not be their actual political registration.  Regardless, the self-identification breakdown from this survey, though not completely spot-on, is not too far removed from actual registration percentages (in parentheses): Democrats-37 (44), Independents-32 (24), and Republicans-31 (32); obviously the big differences are with Democrats tending to identify more as Independents than with their own party.  Nonetheless, there are some interesting results in these tables by party identification.

Looking through these comparisons, you’ll see that everyone is opposed to new taxes.  You’ll also see some expected differences: Republicans are more supportive of eliminating current state employee jobs and equal funding cuts across state programs, while Democrats are opposed to equal funding cuts across programs and eliminating current state jobs.  But, there are some unexpected results here.

The unconventional findings are found in the support for the sales tax for education and the one year extension of the sales tax.  Everyone supports extending the temporary sales tax for another year. Everyone!  Republicans support it at a 68% clip, while 75 % of Independents support it, and, of course, Democrats do too (at 83%).  Surprisingly, support is around 70 percent no matter one’s political party, which sort of tells you something about what people are thinking with regard to taxes and budget cuts.  Though the tax dedication to education question suggests permanency, it is unilaterally supported across all political persuasions, as Republicans (58%), Independents (67%), and Democrats (85%) all support this perspective.  It appears that, despite political differences, the public understands the dire situation the state faces with regard to revenues and are willing to step up and do their part.  Now, if only those in Raleigh could and would . . .

Creating New Taxes and Party Identification

Create New Taxes

Party Identification

DEMOCRAT

INDEPENDENT

REPUBLICAN

STRONGLY OPPOSE/
OPPOSE

54.5%

64.9%

83.4%

STRONGLY SUPPORT/ SUPPORT

45.5%

35.1%

16.6%

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

N=542, +/-4.3; excludes ‘don’t know’ and ‘refused’ responses.

Increase Sales Tax and Party Identification

Increase Sales Tax

Party Identification

DEMOCRAT

INDEPENDENT

REPUBLICAN

STRONGLY OPPOSE/
OPPOSE

34.2%

47.3%

51.2%

STRONGLY SUPPORT/ SUPPORT

65.8%

52.7%

48.8%

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

N=555, +/-4.2; excludes ‘don’t know’ and ‘refused’ responses.

Extending Temporary Sales Tax for Another Year and Party Identification

Extend Temporary Sales Tax

Party Identification

DEMOCRAT

INDEPENDENT

REPUBLICAN

STRONGLY OPPOSE/
OPPOSE

17.2%

24.9%

31.9%

STRONGLY SUPPORT/ SUPPORT

82.8%

75.1%

68.1%

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

N=549, +/-4.3; excludes ‘don’t know’ and ‘refused’ responses.

Sales Tax Increase Dedicated to Education and Party Identification

Sales Tax Dedicated to Education

Party Identification

DEMOCRAT

INDEPENDENT

REPUBLICAN

STRONGLY OPPOSE/
OPPOSE

15.0%

33.0%

42.4%

STRONGLY SUPPORT/ SUPPORT

85.0%

67.0%

57.6%

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

N=561, +/-4.2; excludes ‘don’t know’ and ‘refused’ responses.

Eliminating Jobs for Current State Employees by Party Identification

Eliminate Jobs

Party Identification

DEMOCRAT

INDEPENDENT

REPUBLICAN

STRONGLY OPPOSE/
OPPOSE

81.1%

59.4%

47.5%

STRONGLY SUPPORT/ SUPPORT

18.9%

40.6%

52.5%

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

N=535, +/-4.3; excludes ‘don’t know’ and ‘refused’ responses.

Reducing Funding Equally for All State Programs and Party Identification

Reduce programs equally

Party Identification

DEMOCRAT

INDEPENDENT

REPUBLICAN

STRONGLY OPPOSE/
OPPOSE

59.0%

44.1%

33.1%

STRONGLY SUPPORT/ SUPPORT

41.0%

55.9%

66.9%

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

N=531, +/-4.3; excludes ‘don’t know’ and ‘refused’ responses.

For a complete description of our methodology, see here and here.

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One response to “All Tax Support Isn’t Equal (nor as expected)

  1. Pingback: North Carolinians Support Extending Temporary Sales Tax, Regardless of Party Affiliation « The Progressive Pulse

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