A recent poll by the leftwing advocacy group Alliance for Tax Fairness claims to prove that Marylanders like high taxes. They say:
Middle and working class people in Maryland are feeling squeezed by high energy costs for both electricity and gasoline, and yet they still recognize the need for more revenue to pay for worthy programs and to solve the state’s budget problems. There is considerable support for a fresh look at the tax structure in Maryland and for fiscal overhaul that asks the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the state to invest in Maryland’s future.
According to the press release this poll proves Marylanders are slavering for a tax increase. When you look inside we don't know a lot more than we do know.
But a closer view seems to indicate that they buried the lede.
Click below to continue below the fold.
The bottom line in the poll is that the information provided doesn't tell us enough to know what, if anything, the poll means. We don't have the actual questions, except for a couple of cases, and we don't know how the questions were asked. We don't know anything about the response rate. The sample size seems to be 500 because a survey that elicited 500 actual respondents would be very expensive.
We don't know the sample demographics or the respondent demographics, we don't know how the sample was chosen, or how the samples were weighted.
What we do know is that when asked:
"Maryland lawmakers should propose a budget alternative that includes more than the tax increases needed to close the deficit so that they can protect education funding, seniors, and the most vulnerable members of society."
Most Marylanders contacted in this survey agreed. I'd agree, too. I simply think that the "more that the tax increases" part would include using a machete on the state budget.
In fact, the presentation by this group shows that 36% of respondents favor closing the budget gap by cutting the budget alone while only 6% favor doing it by raising taxes. 50% favor doing fixing the budget by a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.
This fact doesn't find its way into the press release and, unsurprisingly given the emotional nature of the question wording, contradicts a key finding ballyhooed by this group:
In a tougher choice between two positioning statements, only 29% select the statement that “Since Maryland is facing a large deficit next year, lawmakers
should focus on solving that problem with a combination of budget cuts and just the amount of tax increases necessary to balance the budget.” Twice as many respondents (62%) prefer this statement:
“Maryland taxes corporate income and income of wealthy individuals at some of the lowest levels in the country, yet we have many unmet needs in funding education, health care, and Chesapeake Bay cleanup. Lawmakers should go beyond plugging the hole in the budget and create fairer tax system that asks the wealthiest corporations and individuals to invest in Maryland’s future.”
What does leap out at you, however, is that the willingness to raise taxes does not extend to the respondents themselves.
55% are against increasing the sales tax by 1 cent only 18% are described as strongly in favor of this. 79% are against raising the gasoline tax. Raising taxes on businesses only gets an unequivocal yes from 29 percent.
63% are in favor of increasing the state income tax to 6% on those making over $225K. 68% are in favor of a "millionaire's surcharge."
If we take this reluctance to tax oneself as a serious phenomenon, and I do, then the most favored means of increasing taxes will wilt once they are proposed. A landfill tax is going to be passed on to consumers via the waste collection companies. If the tax rate goes up on those making over $225K we can be sure it will go up on those making less.
This is the equivalent of a push poll. It was written in order to elicit a certain response, a response which is counterintuitive to anyone who has watched state and federal budget battles.
When lawmakers start proposing some of these tax increases we'll see how they are received by the public.