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Survey: Six in Ten Oppose Legislation to Delay Lowering Ground Ozone Levels  

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%.

Overwhelming Bipartisan Public Opposition to Repealing Net Neutrality Persists

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%.

Overwhelming Majority of Public Supports Making it More Possible for Third Candidate to Participate in Presidential Debates

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

Public Supports Reforming How Members of Congress are Elected

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.

Survey: Six in Ten Oppose Spending $25 Billion for Wall, But Half Favor Some New Spending

Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority Favors Path to Citizenship for Dreamers

Majorities Oppose Eliminating Family and Lottery Based Immigration Programs, But 6 in 10 Favor Cutting Them Back

Washington DC:  As Congress gears up to make another run at addressing immigration, a new in-depth survey of registered voters presented the major proposals under consideration and found that:

  • Six in ten oppose spending $25 billion to strengthen the southern border, primarily through building a wall, but half favor some new spending.
  • A very large bipartisan majority – eight in ten – support extending the DACA program, providing legal status for 1.8 million immigrants who came to the US illegally as children (“Dreamers”), and giving them a pathway to citizenship.
  • Very large majorities oppose the proposals to eliminate the program that provides green cards to the parents, siblings and adult children of US citizens and the visa lottery. However, in both cases, six-in-ten favor cutting them back to some extent.

The survey was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, and released today by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People.  The sample of 2,916 registered voters included a national sample of 2,228 registered voters, plus three oversampled states that are prominent destinations for immigrants—California (400), Florida (418), and Texas (383).

To ensure that respondents understood the issue, they were given a short briefing on the US immigration program and the proposals for reforming it currently under consideration in Congress. The content was reviewed by proponents and opponents of the proposals, to ensure the briefing was accurate and balanced, and the strongest arguments were presented.

“While Democrats and Republicans in Congress are having tremendous difficulty finding any common ground on immigration, the majority positions of the public – after hearing both sides of the issues – point to some possible areas of agreement,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

Asked about “the government spending $25 billion to build a stronger barrier along the southern border with Mexico, primarily by building a wall,” 58% were opposed. Responses were highly partisan, with 78% of Republicans in favor and 93% of Democrats opposed.  Independents leaned against the idea with 55% opposed.  Majorities were opposed in two states that abut the southern border–Texas (55%) and California (67%) – as well as Florida (55%).

Those who opposed were asked a follow-on question about whether they would favor some new spending to build a stronger barrier. Ten percent (of the full sample) favored an increase. Combined with the 41% who favored the $25 billion, 51% favored some increase.  Asked how much they favored spending, the amounts proposed were generally low, and some backed away from the idea, so that less than half of the full sample supported spending $1 billion or more.

Respondents evaluated the proposal to create a legal status for the 1.8 million immigrants eligible under the DACA program and make them eligible to apply for citizenship in 10-12 years.  It was approved by an overwhelming 80%, including 69% of Republicans as well as 92% of Democrats. Support was extremely high in Texas (79%), Florida (77%), and California (84%).

Told that 290,000 ‘green cards’ are issued each year as part of a visa program for the parents, siblings and adult children of US citizens, 80% opposed the proposal to eliminate the program, including 63% of Republicans and 95% of Democrats.

However, 61% favored cutting back the program by reducing it (41%) or eliminating it entirely (20%). The 41% who favored reducing it were asked what the number of green cards issued should be. Including those who supported eliminating the program, a majority of 55% (of the full sample) cut back the number of green cards issued each year by at least 90,000.

Attitudes about the visa lottery followed a similar pattern.  Told about the lottery program that issues 50,000 green cards per year to individuals from countries under-represented in the US population, 66% opposed the proposal to eliminate the program.  However, 58% of respondents favored cutting it back by either reducing it (25%) or eliminating it entirely (33%).  Those who favored a reduction, were asked what they thought the level should be. Combined with those who favored eliminating the program, a majority of 52% cut it by at least 20,000 green cards each year.

The proposal to increase the number of immigrants under the employment-based program was also explored.  Respondents were told that currently, each year, about 140,000 green cards are granted to people who have skills that are needed in the US labor market.  A bare majority of 51% opposed increasing this number, with 48% in favor. Partisan differences were strong: while 63% of Democrats favored increases, 65% of Republicans were opposed.

The survey was conducted online from February 21 through March 12 with a national probability-based sample of 2,916 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 of 2,228 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.1%.  The samples of the three oversampled states were California 400 (+/- 4.9%), Florida 418 (+/-4.8%), Texas 383 (+/-5%).

Six in Ten Support the Alexander-Murray Healthcare Fixes

A new in-depth survey presented the three key provisions of the Alexander Murray bill, that addresses issues with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to a sample of 2,511 registered voters and had them evaluate arguments for and against each provision.  In the end, all three proposals were endorsed by about six in ten voters.  These include allowing Americans age 30 and up to have low cost, high deductible ‘copper plans,’ and reversing the Trump administration cuts for health-care cost subsidies for low-income people, and cuts for outreach and education for the ACA exchanges.

The survey of 2,511 registered voters was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC), fielded by Nielsen Scarborough, and released today by the nonpartisan organization, Voice of the People.

The bill’s lead sponsors are Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington.

One of the most controversial aspects of the ACA is that Americans age 30 and up cannot have what are called ‘copper plans,’ which have lower premiums, but require patients to pay nearly all of the medical costs until they meet the high deductible of $7,150.  The proposal in the Alexander-Murray bill is to allow older people to have such low-cost plans as well.

The argument in favor of the proposal stressed that the government should not be telling people what kind of insurance plan to have and that the copper plans do have coverage for medical costs above the $7,150 deductible. This argument was found convincing by 77%, including 69% of Democrats as well as 85% of Republicans.  The argument against the proposal emphasized that the people who are drawn to the low cost plans are just the ones who cannot afford the put of pocket costs, therefore they avoid going to the doctor, and get their medical services from emergency rooms, which is inefficient. This argument was found convincing by 57%, including 50% of Republicans as well as 64% of Democrats.

Asked for their final recommendation, 60% favored making copper plans available in the ACA exchanges to anyone seeking individual insurance, including people age 30 and older.  This included 54% of Democrats, as well as 68% of Republicans.

Respondents were also divided six-ways by the Cook ratings for how Democratic or Republican their district voted.  There was little difference across the range of red and blue districts.

The second part of the proposed bill restores subsidies that were ended by the Trump administration that help cover health care costs for low-income people. These subsidies ensure that a person with an income of less than $30,000 does not have to pay more than $2,250 for out-of-pocket expenses in a particular year for things like covering deductibles and co-pays.  These subsidies have been paid directly to the insurance companies to reimburse them for covering the out-of-pocket costs of low-income people.

The argument in favor of the proposal asserted that as a result of ending the subsidies, middle income people are paying higher premiums, the government is paying more premium subsidies of low income people, and that the CBO says the government is not saving money as a result.  Two thirds found this convincing, including 87% of Democrats, but just 46% of Republicans.  The argument against contended that the subsidies are a give-away to the insurance companies, they shore up a system that is not working, and that subsidies remove the incentives for low-income people to keep their medical costs low while making them dependent on the government.  This argument was found convincing by 55%, including 83% of Republicans, but just 30% of Democrats.

For their final recommendation, 58% favored restoring the subsidies that go to insurance companies to reimburse them for covering the out of pocket costs of low income people, including 84% of Democrats but just 29% of Republicans. Majorities were favorable in all types of districts, except in very red districts, where 55% were opposed.

Another key proposal in the bill is to restore funding for services that help familiarize people with the ACA’s insurance exchanges, including advertising, education, training “navigators” to help people find their way to a health plan, and notifying people if there is a problem with their coverage.  The Trump administration reduced funding for outreach by over 70 percent.  As a result, there was a substantial fall-off in new enrollments compared to the previous year.

The argument in favor of fully restoring funding for these services stressed that the government is responsible for maximizing the number of citizens with health insurance, that cutbacks on outreach and education reduces signups, and when people do not have insurance it creates a cost to society, as well as to the individual. It was found convincing by 61%, including 83% of Democrats, but only 36% of Republicans.  The argument against emphasized that the cuts are an effective cost-saving measure, that the reduced level of spending is similar to spending on publicizing the Medicare drug benefit and that the ACA is a failing program that should not be propped up with taxpayer-financed advertising. A modest 51% found this argument convincing, including just 21% of Democrats, but 85% of Republicans found it convincing.

Asked for their final recommendation, 58% favored restoring spending on outreach and education for the ACA’s insurance exchanges, including 85% of Democrats, but only 29% of Republicans.

The Program for Public Consultation, at the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, seeks to improve democratic governance by consulting the citizenry on key public policy issues governments face.  Voice of the People is a nonpartisan organization that seeks to re-anchor our democracy in its founding principles by giving ‘We the People’ a greater role in government. Neither organization takes a position on the policy issues it explores.

The survey was conducted online from December 6-13, 2017 with a national probability-based sample of 2,511 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%.

Overwhelming Bipartisan Majorities Favor Greater Restrictions on Lobbying By Former Government Officials

Majorities Also Favor Ending Support for Former Presidents

Overwhelming bipartisan majorities support proposed legislation that calls for extending the period that former government officials must wait before they can lobby the government and prohibiting former executive branch officials from ever lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.  Similarly, large majorities favor ending the support the government currently provides for former US Presidents.

The survey of 2,482 registered voter was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC), and released today by the non-partisan organization, Voice of the People. To ensure that respondents understood the issue, they were given a short briefing on the proposal and asked to evaluate arguments for and against.  The content was reviewed by Congressional 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.

Currently, former Members of Congress are prohibited from lobbying Congress for two years after leaving office. Proposed legislation H.R. 383 by Rep. Posey [R-FL-8], H.R. 796 by Rep. DeSantis [R-FL-6], H.R. 1951 by Rep. O’Halleran [D-AZ-1] and H.R. 346 by Rep. Trott [R-MI-11] calls for extending this period to five years.  In the survey, 77 percent approved of such an extension, including 80% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats.

Extending the waiting period for senior Congressional staffers from the current one year to two years—as called for in H.R. 383 by Rep. Posey [R-FL-8]—was approved by 77%, including 79% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats.

Currently, senior executive branch officials are prohibited from lobbying their former agency for 1-2 years depending on how senior they were. H.R. 1934 proposed by Rep. Gallagher [R-WI-8], S.522 by Sen. Tester [D-MD], H.R. 796 by Rep. DeSantis [R-FL-6] and H.R. 484 by Rep. De Fazio [D-OR-4] call for extending this period to five years for all such officials.  This proposal was supported by 75%, including 77% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats.

“The American public seems to be eager to drain the swamp in Washington,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

Currently, Americans can act as lobbyists for foreign governments, provided they register and report their activities to the US government.  Senior executive branch officials are only limited by the 1-2 year restriction for lobbying their former agency.  Proposed bills H.R. 796 by Rep. DeSantis [R-FL-6] and H.R. 484 by Rep. De Fazio [D-OR-4] prohibit former senior executive branch officials from any lobbying on behalf of a foreign government for the rest of their life.  This proposal was favored by 75%, including 81% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats.

The Trump administration has required political appointees in its administration to pledge to not lobby their former agency for five years and to never lobby the US government for a foreign government after they leave office.

The sample is large enough to enable analysis of attitudes in very Republican and very Democratic districts (based on Cook PVI ratings of the district the respondents live in).  In all cases, red districts were just slightly more supportive of the proposed restrictions.

Another set of questions presented a proposal to end the financial support for former US Presidents, as called for in H.R. 2298 sponsored by Rep. Sensenbrenner [R-WI-5].  Currently, former US Presidents get financial support to cover the ongoing costs associated with the activities of being a former president, including office space, staffing and travel.  In 2017, the government will spend approximately $4 million in support for the four former US Presidents.

Seventy-two percent favored the proposal, including 85% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats.  In very red districts 77% favored the proposal and in very blue districts 61% favored it.

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%.

View Questionnaire: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Lobbying_Quaire_121217.pdf

View Slides: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Lobbying_PastPresidents_Slides_1217.pdf

Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority Opposes Repealing Net Neutrality

Overwhelming bipartisan majorities oppose the plan that the Federal Communications Commission will consider this Thursday, December 14, to repeal the regulations requiring net neutrality.

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.

At the conclusion, 83% opposed repealing net neutrality, including 75% of Republicans, as well as 89% of Democrats and 86% of independents.

The survey of 1,077 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.

“A decision to repeal net neutrality would be tacking against strong headwinds of public opinion blowing in the opposite direction,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

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.

They were then presented the argument in favor of the proposal, saying 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-eight percent said they found the argument convincing, while 51% found it unconvincing.  More Republicans found it convincing (59%) than Democrats (35%).

The 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.

A much larger 75% found this argument convincing, including 72% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats.

Finally, respondents were asked to give their final recommendation on the proposal to repeal the existing restrictions on ISPs. Overall, only 16% favored the idea, with 83% opposed.  Among Republicans, 21% were in favor 75% opposed.  Eleven percent of Democrats favored the idea, with 89% opposed.  Independents were in between, with 14% in favor and 86% opposed.

The survey was conducted online from December 6-8, 2017 with a national probability-based sample of 1,077 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 +/- 3.0%.

View Questionnaire: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Net_Neutrality_Quaire_121217.pdf 

View Slides: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Net_Neutrality_Slides_121217.pdf

Try Survey: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4057654/Net-Neutrality

Large Scale Study Finds Majorities in Very Red Districts Oppose Key Provisions in Tax Reform Bill

An in-depth survey on tax reform finds that majorities in very red districts, as well as very blue districts, oppose key provisions in the Republican tax reform bills including reducing taxes on the wealthy, reducing the corporate tax, eliminating or limiting state and local tax deductions, and eliminating the tax on income from subsidiaries in other countries.  However, very red districts favor, while very blue districts oppose, eliminating the estate tax, lowering the tax on pass-through businesses, lowering the cap on the mortgage deduction, and allowing immediate expensing by businesses for a five year period.

The study, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), was released by Voice of the People, a nonpartisan organization seeking to give citizens a greater voice in public policy.

The sample of 2,637 registered voters was large enough to make it possible to divide the sample six ways according to the partisan dominance of the respondent’s district, ranging from very red (Republican) to very blue (Democrat), based on Cook’s PVI ratings.

The study used an advanced survey method in which respondents were given briefings on the key proposals in the tax reform bills and evaluated arguments for and against each proposal.  The survey content was reviewed by experts who favor and oppose the proposed tax reform plan, to ensure accuracy and balance, and that the strongest arguments were presented for and against each proposal.  Steven Kull, director of PPC, commented, “Unlike most current standard polls on tax reform, which have large percentages declining to answer, in this survey nearly all respondents formulated responses.“

On the proposal to reduce the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent (in both the House and Senate bills), for the national sample 60% were opposed, including 80% of Democrats and 67% of independents.  Sixty-five percent of Republicans favored the proposal, but majorities opposed it in the red districts, including 57% in the very red districts.

Sixty nine percent, including 55% of Republicans, opposed the Senate bill’s complete elimination of the deductions for state and local taxes (SALT), as did 62% in very red districts. The House bill’s plan for cutting SALT, which preserves the deduction for $10,000 in property taxes, was rejected by a smaller majority (61%), In this case 56% of Republicans were in favoring, however in very red districts 57% were opposed.

The least popular proposal was one that appears in both the House and Senate bills, establishing a territorial tax system which would eliminate the corporate income tax on profits made by subsidiaries in other countries.  Though they heard the arguments that this would make US corporations more competitive and encourage repatriation of profits, 68% opposed the idea. Republicans overall were divided, but in very red districts 57% were opposed.

As it is not feasible to have respondents sort through the complexities of the many changes in rates and deductions, respondents were asked to propose the net level of taxes for each income bracket after deductions, i.e. the effective tax rate.  They were presented the current effective tax rate for each income bracket and given the opportunity to propose what they thought it should be.

Though both the House and Senate tax bills would result in reductions in the effective tax rates for incomes over $200,000, only 23% of respondents proposed reductions for incomes $200-$500,000, dropping to 20% for incomes $500,000 to $1 million, and 19% for incomes above $1 million.  Among Republicans, fewer than four in ten (39%) favored reductions for incomes from $200-$500,000, dropping to 32% for incomes over $1 million. In very red districts only, support for cuts to incomes $200-$500,000 was 31%, dropping to 26% for income over $1 million.  For no income bracket did a clear majority in very red districts favor reductions.

Instead, overall majorities favored increasing taxes by 5 percent or more for incomes of $200,000-$500,000 (54% favored), $500,000 to $1 million (60%), and over $1 million (62%).  Among Republicans, less than a majority favored increasing taxes on the wealthy, but in very red districts 53% favored increasing taxes on incomes over $500,000 and 58% for incomes over $1 million.

According to the recently released scoring from the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the net effect of the House and Senate bills would be to lower the average taxes by 5-8 percent for incomes of $200-$500,000, by 5-10 percent for incomes $500-$100,000, and by 6-8 percent for incomes above $1 million.

Several proposals elicited divided responses overall, with sharp partisan divisions that carried over into the districts as well.  Setting a new top tax rate of 25 percent for pass-through businesses (as called for in the House bill) was favored by 49% and opposed by 50%, with three quarters of Republicans in favor and three quarter of Democrats opposed.  Very red districts were in favor (56%), while very blue districts were opposed (60%).  The Senate bill lowers the rate even further.

Allowing immediate expensing of business investments for a five-year period (as called for in the House bill) was favored by 50% and opposed by 49%, with 74% of Republicans in favor and 72% of Democrats opposed.  In very red districts 56% were in favor, while in very blue districts 57% were opposed.

On the House bill proposal to lower the maximum amount of deductible interest for new mortgages to the interest paid on $500,000, 50% were in favor, 49% opposed, with 60% of Republicans in favor and 58% of Democrats opposed.  In very red districts 57% were in favor, while in very blue districts 56% were opposed.

For the estate tax, the House bill calls for doubling the amount of assets that can be transferred tax-free for the next six years and then completely eliminates the tax.  This idea was opposed by 53%, including 75% of Democrats and 59% of independents.  However, 73% of Republicans favored it.  In very red districts 56% favored it but in other red districts views were divided.  In all blue districts majorities were opposed including 61% in very blue districts. The Senate bill also doubles the amount of tax-free transfers, but does not eliminate the tax in six years.

On the broader question of whether tax revenues should be reduced, 54% favored some reduction, but 51% thought that $1.5 trillion over the next decade went too far, including 76% of Democrats and 54% of independents.  Seventy-eight percent of Republicans thought that the $1.5 trillion reduction was acceptable. Only in very red districts did a majority (53%) think this was acceptable, while other red districts were divided.  Blue districts were opposed.

The survey was conducted online with a national probability-based sample of 2,637 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 +/- 2.3% for the national sample and 4.5-5% for the samples divided by their Congressional district’s partisan dominance based on Cook PVI ratings.

Download “Americans on Tax Reform” report at: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Tax_Reform_Report_Sextiles.pdf

Download Slide Presentation: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Tax_Reform_Slides_Sextiles_1117.pdf

Download Questionnaire: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Tax_Reform_Quaire_Sextiles.pdf

Overwhelming Bi-Partisan Majority Opposes Allowing Churches, Other Nonprofits, to Engage in Political Activity

An overwhelming majority of 79% voters oppose the proposal to allow churches and other non-profit organizations to endorse political candidates and provide them money and other support.  This includes 71% of Republicans as well as 88% of Democrats and 78% on independents.  Most (55%) say it is ‘very important’ to keep the current law.

The proposal to reverse the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits political activity by tax-exempt organizations, is in the House tax reform bill and in other proposed legislation, including H.R. 172, H.R. 781, and S. 264.

The survey of 2,482 registered voter was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC), and released today by the non-partisan organization Voice of the People.

“Americans are frustrated with the degree of partisan polarization in this country.  The idea of churches and universities becoming channels for partisan political activity makes this proposal a non-starter with Republican and Democratic voters alike, “ comments Steven Kull, director of PPC.

To ensure that respondent understood the issue, they were given a short briefing on the proposal and asked to evaluate three arguments for and three against.

Some of the arguments in favor of the proposal to allow political activity by nonprofits were found convincing by majorities.  Fifty-eight percent found convincing the argument that the current restrictions constitute an infringement of the First Amendment right of free expression.  Fifty-two percent found convincing the argument that before the 1960s, there was no such restriction and churches were not turned into arms of political parties.  The argument that political decisions should be part of religious institutions because they are closely linked to religious values was found convincing by just 46%.

The arguments against the proposal fared much better with all of them being found convincing by very large majorities.  Eighty-two percent found convincing the argument that churches and universities should be special places for worship or study and that they could become affiliated with specific parties, promoting rancor and polarization.  Seventy-eight percent found convincing the argument that, because there are no limits on donations to tax-exempt organization, this could open up the floodgates for political money to flow through houses of worship and other non-profits.  Seventy-three percent were persuaded that giving tax breaks for political donations means that the US Treasury, and thus American taxpayers, will be effectively be paying part of the cost of the donation.

The sample is large enough to enable analysis of attitudes in very Republican and very Democratic districts (based on Cook PVI ratings of the district the respondents live in).  There was no significant variation.  Seventy-nine percent of respondents in very red districts as well as very blue districts opposed the proposal to reverse the Johnson amendment.

Though numerous Evangelical leaders have come out in favor of allowing churches to engage in political activity, in the survey a 56% of respondents who identify as Evangelical said they oppose the proposal while 43% were in favor.  However among Republican Evangelicals a slight majority—52%–favors the idea (46% opposed).

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%.



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