Majority Opposed in Very Red as Well as Very Blue Districts

A new survey finds that six in ten voters oppose proposed Congressional legislation that postpones, for eight years, current requirements to lower ground ozone levels.  Such ozone contributes to the creation of smog and is harmful to humans, but lowering ozone levels incurs economic costs.

The legislation, H.R 806 Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, passed the US House on July 18,2017 and is now pending in the Senate.

Nationwide, a majority of 61% opposed the legislation, including 76% of Democrats and 62% of independents.  Fifty-five percent of Republicans favored the legislation.

The survey was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, with a sample of 1,999 registered voters and released today by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People.

Respondents were also divided six-ways according to the Cook ratings for how Democratic or Republican their district votes, from very red to very blue.  In very red districts, 54% opposed the legislation, while in very blue districts 66% were opposed.

“Though air quality has improved over the least decades, a majority of Americans continue to press for further improvements, even when presented the costs,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

To ensure that respondents understood the issues, they were first given a briefing and evaluated three arguments in favor and three arguments against the legislation.  The content was reviewed by proponents and opponents of the proposals to ensure the briefing was accurate and balanced, and that the strongest arguments were presented.

Respondents were told that in 1990, with bipartisan support, Congress passed an update of the Clean Air Act, which called for gradually reducing ground-level ozone. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was charged with establishing the standards for this process and working with the states to meet them. In 2008, the EPA lowered the maximum ozone allowed to 75 parts per billion. Though some states had not yet reached this level, in 2015 the EPA further lowered the ozone level to 70 ppb, requiring states to develop a plan for meeting this standard by the early 2020s.

Asked how important they think it is to lower the maximum allowed ozone level, 76% said they think it is very (48%) or somewhat (29%) important.  Among Democrats, nine in ten said it was important, as did six in ten Republicans.

Respondents were informed about the costs and benefits assessed by the EPA.  These included both economic and health-related effects.

They then evaluated arguments for and against legislation delaying, by eight years, the requirement for states to develop a plan to lower their ozone levels by the early 2020s to 70 ppb.  The argument in favor found convincing by the largest number—59%—went as follows:

To meet this new ozone standard, states could be required to place restrictions on everything from manufacturing and energy development to infrastructure projects like roads and bridges, hurting their economy. This will hurt the many people who are already having a hard time economically. This bill would give states more time to get ready for the new standard, thus balancing the needs for better air quality and economic growth.

The other pro arguments, saying that the EPA is moving too fast and that the requirements are too demanding for some states with especially high ozone levels, were found convincing by half.

The arguments against the legislation did substantially better, in all three cases being found convincing by more than seven in ten.  Seventy-four percent found convincing both the arguments that, “Extensive research has clearly shown that ozone is dangerous, especially to children, the elderly, those with respiratory illnesses, and unborn fetuses.”  The same number found convincing the argument that the EPA is already giving more time to states for which it is especially difficult to lower their ozone levels, so it does not make sense to ease up on the standards for all the states.

Asked, in conclusion, whether they favored or opposed “legislation in Congress that delays, by eight years, the requirement that states undertake a step-by-step plan for lowering the maximum allowed ozone levels from 75 ppb to 70 ppb,” 61% said they were opposed, including 76% of Democrats and 62% of independents.  However, 55% of Republicans favored the legislation.

The survey was conducted online from March 9-23, 2018 with a national probability-based sample of 1,999 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The national sample has a margin of error of +/- 2.2%.


Since the December 14 FCC decision to repeal the requirements that Internet service providers abide by net neutrality, the FCC continued to promote their decision as a means for promoting Internet innovation and have parried criticism that it will drive up costs for consumers saying that the Federal Trade Commission will be in a position to protect against unfair practices.  However, a new survey finds that overwhelming bipartisan opposition persists even when presented the FCC arguments as well as opposing arguments.

Eighty-six percent oppose the repeal of net neutrality, including 82% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats.  This is up slightly from a survey conducted during the run-up to the December decision when 83% were opposed.  Opposition among Republicans has increased from 75% to 82%, while Democrats have held steady.

Respondents were given a short briefing and asked to evaluate arguments for and against the proposal before making their final recommendation.  The survey content was reviewed by experts in favor and against net neutrality, to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced, and that the strongest arguments were presented.

The survey of 997 registered voters was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC), and released today by the nonpartisan organization, Voice of the People.

Unlike the December survey, the current survey included an argument in defense of repeal put forward by the FCC as follows:

Concerns that advocates have about net neutrality are overblown and fail to recognize a key fact.  That is, once the FCC repeals the recent rules for FCC regulation of the internet, it will revert to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take responsibility for ensuring that ISPs do not engage in anti-competitive and unfair practices.  The FTC will require that any changes in the service they provide will be fully disclosed.  With these protections, we will be able to count on the competition of the market to ensure that ISPs provide the service that consumers want.

A modest majority of 52% found this argument convincing.

However, the counterargument was found convincing by 72%.  It went:

Giving the FTC jurisdiction over ISPs would not prevent them from setting up fast and slow lanes on the internet by offering different download speeds at different prices or charging for access to certain websites. It would only require they disclose they are doing so.  Further, the FTC cannot police the long standing carriers like Verizon and AT&T.  Last, we cannot count on market competition to ensure that customers get what they want–a full 58% of American households only have access to one high-speed broadband ISP and, thus, there is no competition. And even if there is another ISP, it is unlikely it would voluntarily forego the right to charge for access to certain websites.

To introduce them to the topic, respondents were told that Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like Verizon or Comcast, are currently “required to:

  • provide customers access to all websites on the internet
  • provide equal access to all websites without giving any websites faster or slower download speeds

and are not allowed to:

  • charge websites to provide faster download speeds for those who visit their website
  • charge customers, who use the internet, an extra fee to visit specific websites.”

They were told that the proposal is to remove these regulations, though the ISPs would be required to disclose any variation in download speeds or blocking of any websites.

In addition to the arguments discussed above they were presented an argument in favor of the proposal that the restrictions are unnecessary, that they stifle innovation, that ISPs should be allowed to provide cutting-edge download speeds for companies that want them, that due to these restrictions the United States is lagging behind other developed countries in the development of the internet, and that disclosure requirements ensure that ISPs will not overreach.  Forty-seven percent said they found the argument convincing, while 53% found it unconvincing.  More Republicans found it convincing (57%) than Democrats (38%).

The other argument against the proposal fared better.  It asserted that ISPs, though they do not provide website content, would be able to charge consumers ever-higher fees for internet access, that the big companies with websites could pay for the faster download speeds while smaller competitors could be driven out of business, that ISPs who provide content could block access to competitors who also provide content, and that all this would undermine innovation.  Seventy-seven percent found this argument convincing, including 75% of Republicans and 81% of Democrats.

Finally, respondents were asked to give their final recommendation on the proposal to repeal the existing restrictions on ISPs. Overall, only 13% favored the idea, with 86% opposed.  Among Republicans, 17% were in favor 82% opposed.  Eight percent of Democrats favored the idea, with 90% opposed.  Independents were in between, with 14% in favor and 85% opposed.

The survey was conducted online from March 9-23, 2018 with a national probability-based sample of 997 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/- 3.1%.


Favor Making Independent and Third-Party Candidates More Competitive in Congressional Elections

As a Federal District Court considers a claim that the Commission on Presidential Debates should eliminate requirements that plaintiffs say effectively excludes a third, unaffiliated candidate from participating in the presidential debates, a new survey of American voters finds overwhelming support for making it more possible for a third candidate to participate in the presidential debates.  A similarly large majority favors efforts to make it more possible for independent and third party candidates to compete in Congressional elections.

The survey was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, with a sample of 2,569 registered voters and released today by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People.

Currently the Commission on Presidential Debates, which controls the debates, requires that candidates receive an average of 15% support in five major national polls just prior to the debate. No independent candidate has met this requirement since the Commission was established in 1987, though an exception was made for Ross Perot in 1992.

A very large majority of 72% said it is very (45%) or somewhat (27%) important to “make it more possible for an independent or third-party candidate to participate in the presidential debates” (Republicans 69%, Democrats 72%, Independents 78%).

Even larger majorities support a standard for inclusion in the presidential debates that is more likely to be met than the Commission on Debate’s current requirement.  The proposed requirement is that “a candidate must fulfill the state requirements to be on the ballot (primarily getting signatures) in enough states that the candidate could conceivably win an election.” The proposal was supported by 77%, including 75% of Republicans, 77% of Democrats and 83% of independents.  Support was equally strong in very red districts as very blue districts.

“The public is sending a loud and clear signal that they would like to hear from more than two main party candidates when making the critical decision about who should be president,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

To ensure that respondents had fully considered both sides of the issue, before asking them for their final conclusion, they were asked to evaluate an argument for and an argument against the proposal. The argument in favor stressed that the current independent and third party candidates “bring important new perspectives,” that the current requirement to achieve 15% support in the polls is “a catch-22, because the candidate would need name recognition to get support,” that the main party candidates have the advantages of the financial and institutional support of the parties, and that “getting the many thousands of signatures needed to get on the ballot in many states is enough of a requirement.”   This argument was found convincing by 81% (Republicans 80%, Democrats 81%, Independents 82%).

The counter argument stressed that the debates are a key moment for voters to see and hear “the candidates who have a realistic chance of winning the election,” that having up on the stage “another candidate who is not really a serious contender is a big distraction, driven by an excess of inclusiveness,” that the 15% polling requirement “works to make sure only viable candidates participate,”  that no one is prevented from meeting this standard, and that “just getting a lot of signatures, which can be done if you hire enough canvassers, is too low a bar.” This argument was found convincing by a much smaller 41% (Republicans 45%, Democrats 40%, Independents 34%).

Respondents also evaluated the proposal that “the government should take steps to make it more possible for independent and third-party candidates to compete in Congressional elections.” A similarly large 74% favored the proposal, including 71% of Republicans, 75% of Democrats and 78% of independents.  Support was equally strong in very red districts and very blue districts.

The argument in favor emphasized that with more independent and third party members of Congress that the two big parties would be less powerful, that they would be less able to drive Congress into gridlock, that they would have to be more flexible so as to form coalition with nonaligned members, that nonaligned members might be able to break through impasses and that “voters who are not enthusiastic about either of the big parties, would finally have a real voice in Congress.”  This argument was found convincing by 82%, with little differences in party affiliation.

The argument against stressed that there is no need to make efforts to help out independent and third-party candidates, that there are already independent members of Congress, and other parties, that “nothing forces someone to pick one of the two major parties,” that third parties should build themselves up by grassroots organizing and fielding good candidates rather than “tweaking the rules in their favor,” that having independent or third-party members will not necessarily lead to consensus because some might be more extreme than the big party candidates, and that “with more players in the field, it might be even harder to find common ground.”  Only 41% found this argument convincing, with little difference among the partisan affiliations.

The survey was conducted online from Sept. 22 – Oct. 17, 2017 with a national probability-based sample of 2,569 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The national sample has a margin of error of +/- 1.9%.

Questionnaire: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Indep_3rdParty_Quaire_041718.pdf

Slides: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Indep_3rdParty_Slides_041718.pdf

Try Survey: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3950019/Government-Reform-Independents-and-Third-Parties


Redistricting By Citizens, Rank-Choice Voting, Multi-Member Districts

Majorities of voters support a number of bold reforms to change how members of Congress are elected, including having congressional districts drawn by independent citizen commissions, and adopting ranked choice voting and multi-member districts, according to a new, in-depth survey from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation. These three reforms comprise new legislation – The Fair Representation Act – sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and cosponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md).

The highest level of support was for changing the way that House congressional districts are designed—a prominent issue now that the Supreme Court is considering whether the federal government should prevent state legislatures from designing congressional districts to the benefit of the dominant party, popularly known as gerrymandering.

Two thirds of respondents – including 53 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents – favored having congressional districts drawn by a nonpartisan commission of citizens. The proposal specifies that the commission of citizens would be committed to drawing districts in a way that is geographically natural and compact without creating a favorable distribution for either party; be one third Republicans, one third Democrats, and one third independents; and reflect the balance of the state according to gender, race, ethnicity and the geographic areas of the state. Decisions on the shape of districts would be made by a majority of the commission members that includes at least one member from both parties and an independent. Only 19 percent found the idea unacceptable, including 29 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats, with the remainder saying it would be tolerable or acceptable.

The survey of 2,482 registered voters was conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), and released today by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People (VOP).  Neither VOP nor PPC take a position on the issues, but seek to the give the public a greater voice.

“As the Supreme Court justices consider the question of how best to design congressional districts, they may want to consider an approach supported by a large bipartisan majority of American voters,” said PPC Director  Steven Kull.

To ensure that respondents understood the issues, they were given a short briefing on the proposals and asked to evaluate arguments for and against. The content was reviewed by proponents and opponents of the legislation to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced, and that the arguments presented were the strongest ones being made.  

Ranked choice voting, or ‘instant runoff’ voting also received majority support from respondents. This is a method for electing members of Congress when there are more than two candidates. Proponents argue that it is now difficult for independent and third-party candidates to get traction, because voters are concerned they’d be throwing away their vote. In an election result divided between three or more candidates, the winner might even be opposed by the majority of voters. Opponents of the proposal say these issues are not significant enough to warrant overhauling the way that members of Congress are elected.

In this proposed system, voters select not only their most preferred candidate, but also their second choice, third-choice and so on. The winner is then selected by first counting all the first-choice votes and if any candidate gets the majority he or she is the winner. But if no candidate gets a majority, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is removed from the race and those who gave that candidate their first-choice vote have their votes redirected to their second choice. This may result in a candidate getting a majority and being declared the winner. But if not, the process is repeated until a candidate has a majority.  This method is now used in elections in a number of U.S. cities including Minneapolis, St. Paul and San Francisco, as well as in some other countries, notably Australia.

This proposal for ranked choice voting was favored by 55 percent overall, including 64 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents. Only 46 percent of Republicans favored the idea, with 52 percent opposed.  

Resistance to the idea is fairly low.  In a separate question just 29 percent said the idea would be unacceptable, including 37 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Democrats, with the remainder saying it would be tolerable or acceptable.

Similar levels of support were found for a third measure to create ‘multi-member districts.’  This would be a new way of structuring districts in the U.S. House of Representatives. Proponents say this proposal addresses two issues: that in some states, all of their members of Congress are from one party, even though a very large portion of the population identifies with the other party, and, again, independent and third-party candidates have little chance of getting elected, even though a substantial number of voters might favor them.

The proposal would make larger U.S. House districts that would be represented by more than one member of Congress. In a state with five or fewer congressional districts, the state would still have the same number of House members, but they would all be elected by all of the state’s voters and represent the whole state. For larger states, clusters of 3-5 districts would be merged into a larger district. Research has been done on what the likely effect would be: election results would more closely mirror the partisan balance of the state.

This proposal for multi-member districts was favored by 55 percent, including 66 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents.  Among Republicans, only 44 percent favored the idea with 53 percent opposed. But here too opposition was not strongly held – only 27 percent said it would be unacceptable, including 34 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats.

The survey was conducted online from September 7- October 3, 2017 with a national probability-based sample of 2,482 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/- 2.0 percent.




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