Poll: Voters opposed to sales tax increaseSurvey finds 56% against proposal for 1-cent increase.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
A proposed 1-cent increase in the state sales tax has a hill to climb to be successful in the November 2012 election, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The survey conducted by Nielson Brothers Polling, of Sioux Falls, states that 56 percent of South Dakota voters oppose an increase in the tax, now at 4 cents per dollar, while 35 percent support it and 9 percent are undecided.
When asked whether “in light of state budget cuts” they would support a “1 percent state tax increase,” Democrats opposed it 53 percent to 39 percent, while Republicans opposed it 58 percent to 32 percent. The strongest opposition came from independents and members of other political parties, who opposed it 60 percent to 32 percent.
A coalition called Moving South Dakota Forward is collecting signatures to place an initiated measure on the 2012 ballot that would add a 1-cent sales tax dedicated to helping fund K-12 public education and Medicaid. It needs almost 16,000 signatures by the end of October of this year to qualify for the November 2012 election.
The poll question did not inform respondents that the money generated by the proposed higher tax would be earmarked for education and Medicaid. The question was “In light of state budget cuts, some support a 1-percent state tax increase from 4 to 5 percent. If you would support a 1-percent sales tax increase, say yes; if you oppose it, say no; if undecided, say undecided.”
Moving South Dakota Forward is made up of education groups such as the South Dakota Education Association and health-care organizations, including the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations.
According to the coalition, the 1-cent hike to the sales tax would raise approximately $175 million to $180 million annually, split evenly between K-12 public education and Medicaid. Education funding was reduced $52 million this year, after a $24 million drop in 2010, while Medicaid saw a $70 million reduction in 2011.
According to the results from NBP’s poll, conducted over a three-day period from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, the proposed sales tax hike has more support from self-identified liberals than conservatives, with 56 percent of liberals backing the increase while 31 percent of those who called themselves conservatives favored it. Moderates were nearly evenly split, with 51 percent backing the tax hike. People who said they were members of the tea party movement were the most opposed, with only 19 percent favoring the tax increase.
Each group made up roughly a quarter of the survey respondents, according to NPR, which is operated by two Mitchell natives, Paul and Mark Nielson, who now work in Sioux Falls.
“The immediate reaction by a majority of respondents to a sales tax increase to alleviate state budget cuts is negative,” said Paul Nielson. “Dedicating new revenues to specific needs, for example, education and health care, may increase support. In any case, more conservative voters still must be convinced.”
In the survey, 729 voters responded to the question about an increase in the state sales tax. It has a margin of error of 3.63 percent at a 95 percent confidence level, according to NBP.
Sandra Waltman, director of government relations and communications for the SDEA, said the coalition plans to conduct an educational campaign to persuade South Dakotans to support the salestax increase.
“I do know, based on the reaction from our volunteers and the public, there is support out there,” Waltman said.
She said without studying the poll and learning about the methodology, she didn’t want to discuss her reaction to the poll numbers.
“Right now, we’re concentrating on the process,” Waltman said. “We are very confident we can collect those names. We have lots of volunteers out doing that. Once we have it certified, we will continue the conversation.”
Nielson Brothers Polling plans to release other survey findings soon.
It released a poll last weekend that showed Gov. Dennis Daugaard with a 60 percent approval rating. The poll also touched on people’s thoughts on the future of the state.
New poll results to be released in coming days include Rep. Kristi Noem’s job approval ratings and voters’ preference in a hypothetical Noem-Stephanie Herseth Sandlin rematch. NBP will continue to research and publish South Dakota opinions as a civic resource, according to the Nielson brothers.