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Republicans & Democrats Agree on Over $250 Billion Deficit Reduction Changing Spending Priorities & Rolling Back Tax Cuts

Survey Finds Rochester Area Voters Share Common Ground on Federal Spending and Taxes

In an innovative survey of Rochester voters that gave respondents the opportunity to make changes to the discretionary federal budget and federal taxes, a majority of Republicans and Democrats converged on steps to reduce the deficit by $251.3 billion, making significant changes on spending and taxes.

The survey, part of a joint project of the nonpartisan organizations Common Ground Solutions and Voice of the People, was conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation with a representative sample of 414 registered voters in New York’s 25th Congressional District, which covers the greater Rochester area.

Today in Rochester, local residents gathered at the Democrat and Chronicle to take the same survey, in person, and be part of a discussion of the issues led by the leaders of the sponsoring organizations.

“With Congress so polarized that it cannot effectively negotiate, our tax and spending policies are hostage to gridlock,” said Howard Konar, director of Common Ground Solutions and Rochester resident. “This survey shows our elected leaders that Republicans and Democrats can find common ground, and that it’s time for them to come together.”

How it Works

The survey was conducted with a unique online instrument, called a ‘policymaking simulation,’ that aims to put the public in the shoes of policymakers.  Respondents were presented discretionary spending levels for FY2017 & FY2018, current sources of general revenues and proposals for new ones.  They were given the opportunity to propose changes to spending areas and specific revenue sources for FY2019, getting constant feedback on how their choices affected the projected deficit.

Anyone can participate in the interactive policymaking simulation that lets them make changes to tax and spending levels as they see fit.  The simulation is available at http://vop.org/budget.

“This survey gives everyone a tool to make their voice heard,” said Konar, “and shows our leaders that there are common ground solutions to our hardest problems.”

Findings

Majorities of Republicans and Democrats converged on $65 billion in spending cuts. The deepest cut was $47 billion in defense spending, followed by a $9 billion reduction to Homeland Security, a $3 billion cut to the Department of Justice’s enforcement of laws, $2 billion to operations in Afghanistan and Syria, as well as other smaller cuts.

The biggest changes, though, were on the revenue side, with majorities of both Republicans and Democrats converging on a total of $186.3 billion in tax increases. These included:

  • a new tax of 0.1% on financial transactions ($63 billion),
  • partial rollback of the tax cuts for corporate taxes ($50.5 billion)
  • partial rollback of the tax cuts on incomes over $200k ($44B),
  • a new fee on the uninsured debt of large financial institutions ($10 billion),
  • a new tax of one half cent per ounce of sugary drinks ($10 billion),
  • an increase in the alcohol tax ($6.6 billion)
  • repeal of treatment for hedge fund managers income as “carried interest” ($2.2 billion).

“Clearly Americans are concerned about the deficit and are ready to make some tough choices to bring it down—more than Congress is even prepared to consider,” said Steven Kull, President of Voice of the People.

The overall majority of survey respondents (though not a majority of both Republicans and Democrats) also took a number of additional steps and generating additional revenue, including:

  • partially rolling back the cuts in the new tax law for incomes of $100,000 to $200,000 ($28B)
  • fully rolling back the tax cuts for incomes over $500,000 (a total of $33.2 billion).
  • deeper cuts in spending, especially to defense (a total of $75 billion) and Homeland Security (a total of $19 billion).

All told, the overall majority reduced the deficit by a total of $389.9 billion, with $104 billion in spending cuts and $285.9 billion in revenue increases:

  • a majority of Democrats cut the deficit by $539.2 billion, including a net$120 billion cut in spending, and $419.2 billion in revenue increases.
  • a majority of Republicans cut the deficit by $259.3 billion, including a net $73 billion cut in spending and $186.3 billion in tax

The sample included a representative sample of 414 registered voters from New York’s 25th Congressional district, which covers the greater Rochester area. The sample was provided by Precision Sample and Survey Sampling International from their opt-in internet panels.

Questionnaire with Findings: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Fed_Budget_FY19_Quaire_NY25.pdf

Overwhelming Bipartisan Majorities Support Bill Giving Judges Discretion to Moderate Prison Sentencing

A new survey finds overwhelming bipartisan support for provisions in a bill that would give judges greater discretion to ease prison sentencing, sponsored by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).  Some provisions were also contained in the House-passed First Step Act.

Both pieces of legislation would roll back mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses that were set in the 1990s in response to a surge in crime, which has since abated.  Such mandatory minimums played a key role in the more than doubling of the rates of incarceration that occurred in the subsequent decades.  Proponents of the bill argue that this level of incarceration was an over-reaction that should be moderated, while opponents of the bill credit the high levels of incarceration with the reduction in crime.

Respondents were presented a briefing that included the historical background of the issue and asked to evaluate a series of strongly-stated arguments for and against reducing mandatory minimums for serious drug offenses, and for the other reforms proposed in the bill, before making their final recommendations.

In conclusion, 83% favored lowering the mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison to five years for one serious drug offense (Republicans 76%, Democrats 90%).  Three quarters (75%) favored reducing the mandatory minimum of 20 years to 15 years for two such offenses (Republicans 66%, Democrats 84%).

Seventy percent favored reducing the mandatory minimum of life imprisonment for three such offenses (known as ‘three strikes and you are out’) to 25 years in prison (Republicans 61%, Democrats 80%).

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 2,417 registered voters was provided by Nielsen Scarborough.

“A strikingly bipartisan consensus favors dialing down the mandatory sentences of the ‘war on drugs’ period,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC. “Americans seem to feel that we have gone too far in locking people up.”

Very large bipartisan majorities also favored other provisions in the bill that give judges the discretion to release inmates who have been determined to pose no risk to society and meet other requirements.  Three quarters (74%) favor allowing judges to release inmates who are 60 years or older and have completed at least two thirds of their sentence (Republicans 67%, Democrats 83%).  Eighty two percent support allowing early release for prisoners who are terminally ill (Republicans 79%, Democrats 87%) and 81% for prisoners who are so ill that they need to be in some type of assisted living facility (Republicans 77%, Democrats 86%).

Similarly, large majorities (overall 78%, Republicans 68%, Democrats 87%) favor giving federal judges the option to determine whether prisoners – convicted as juveniles who have served at least 20 years in prison – still pose a threat to society, and, if not, to release them from prison and place them on 5 years of supervised release.

Another provision with overwhelming bipartisan support (84%, Republicans 79%, Democrats 89%) gives the Bureau of Prisons the option to allow selected prisoners to serve the last 10% of their sentence in a monitored home setting, provided that they pose a low to moderate risk of repeating their criminal activity and participated in a recidivism reduction program.  Prisoners who participate in programs —such as drug or alcohol treatment, or employment training—that reduce the risk of renewed criminal activity will have a higher chance of being selected for the program.  Sixty four percent (Republicans 52%, Democrats 75%) go further and favor allowing this option for the final 20% of sentences for such inmates.

Three quarters favor the bill’s provision making retroactive the sentencing adjustments for crack as compared to powder cocaine.  Starting in 1986, sentencing guidelines counted an amount of crack cocaine as equivalent to 100 times that amount of powder cocaine.  In 2010, this was changed, counting crack cocaine as the equivalent to 18 times the amount of powder cocaine.  However, those sentenced prior to the new guidelines were not covered by the new law.  Seventy-four percent overall (Republicans 64%, Democrats 84%) favor making retroactive this new sentencing guideline to sentences from before 2010.

Currently, someone whose role is limited to transporting or storing illegal drugs or money related to drug deals is still subject to the mandatory minimum requirements. The bill proposes creating a new category for such cases, called ‘couriers,’ which would still be subject to punishment, but would not be subject to mandatory minimums.  This idea was favored by 74%, including 64% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats.

The survey was conducted online from July 10 to 23, 2018, with a national probability-based sample of 2,417 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 is +/- 2.0%.

Members of the public can go online and go through the same survey (called a “Policymaking Simulation”) to learn more and to weigh-in on the topic with their Members of Congress. http://vop.org/simulations/sentencing/.

Majorities of Republican and Democratic Voters Agree on $128 Billion in Deficit Reduction, Raising Revenue and Cutting Spending

In a unique survey in which respondents made up their own Federal budget, majorities of both Republicans and Democrats nationwide converged on a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases that would reduce the deficit for 2019 by $128.4 billion.

Majorities of all voters in very red districts and very blue districts went further, agreeing  on $268.3 billion in deficit reduction. The overall national majority went further still, reducing the deficit by $347.9 billion.

In the survey, initiated by the nonpartisan organizations Voice of the People and Common Ground Solutions and conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), a random sample of 2,714 registered voters were presented actual discretionary spending for FY 2018 (broken into 31 line items), and sources of general revenues, actual and proposed. They were then given the opportunity to modify both spending and revenues, getting feedback as they went along about the effect of their choices on the projected deficit. Respondents were not instructed to reduce the deficit, and were able to both increase or decrease spending and revenues.

The biggest changes voters made were on the revenue side, with majorities of Republicans and Democrats agreeing on increases totaling $98.4 billion. This included rolling back by half, the new tax bill’s cuts in income taxes for those earning $500,000 or more, generating $16.6 billion in revenue. Alcohol taxes were increased to 25 cents per ounce of alcohol, generating $6.6 billion.

Most new taxes were aimed at Wall Street, including a new fee of 0.1% on financial transactions, such as the sale of stocks (generating $63 billion), a new fee on uninsured debt held by financial institutions ($10 billion), and eliminating the special treatment for hedge fund managers (known as ‘carried interest’), generating $2.2 billion.

On spending, majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agreed on cuts of $30 billion. Most of these were cuts to defense spending, including for the base defense budget ($13 billion), nuclear weapons ($2 billion), and the operations in Afghanistan and Syria ($2 billion).  Other significant cuts agreed on were for the Department of Homeland Security ($4 billion), the Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal laws ($3 billion), subsidies to agricultural corporations ($2 billion), and military aid ($2 billion).

“These results show that when Americans are given unbiased facts on issues – in ways that don’t try to sway them one way or the other – they often find common sense solutions to problems more easily than our elected officials,” said Common Ground Solutions Founder Howard Konar.

The sample was large enough to divide six ways, based on the partisan orientation of the respondents’ Congressional districts according to Cook’s PVI ratings.

Majorities in both very red and very blue districts, in reducing the deficit by $268.3 billion, agreed on $74 billion in spending cuts. Most notably, they reduced defense spending by $43 billion and Homeland Security by $14 billion.  They also agreed on $194.3 billion in revenue increases.  They rolled back, by half, the recent tax cuts for incomes of $200,000 up (generating $44 billion), and the cuts to corporate taxes (generating $50.5 billion). They rolled back the cut to the estate tax (generating $8 billion) and adopted a new tax on sugary drinks of one half a cent per ounce ($10 billion).

The overall national majority went further, cutting the deficit by $347.9 billion.  They reduced the base defense budget by $63 billion and Homeland Security by $19 billion, while increasing spending on K-12 education by $2 billion. In addition to the revenue changes supported by majorities in very red and very blue districts, they repealed the new tax law’s 20% deduction for owners of pass-through businesses ($47 billion) and completely rolled back the tax cut on incomes $1 million and up ($15.2 billion).

“Clearly Americans are concerned about the deficit and are ready to make some tough choices to bring it down—more than Congress is even ready to consider,” said PPC Director Steven Kull.

There were significant partisan differences. Republicans only cut $13 billion from the base defense budget, while Democrats cut $73 billion. Republicans cut $4 billion from Homeland Security, reducing it by $29 billion.  Republicans cut Medical research $3 billion, while Democrats did not favor a change.  Democrats raised spending on K-12 education, while Republicans made no change. Most Republicans did not join in on increases to corporate taxes and estate taxes, a new tax on sugary drinks, repealing the deduction for owners of pass-through businesses, a partial roll back on incomes $200,000-500,000, or fully rolling back taxes on incomes $1 million and up.

In the survey, respondents went through an online process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that gives users information and seeks to put them in the shoes of a policymaker.  Respondents are provided a briefing, presented with pro and con arguments, and then asked to weigh-in with their specific budget and tax recommendations. The content was reviewed in advance by Congressional staffers from both parties and other experts to assure accuracy and balance.

The sample was conducted online from June 8th through June 25th with a national probability-based sample of 2,714 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The national sample of 2,339 registered voters has a margin of error of (+/-) 2 percent, and included an oversample of 375 registered voters from California and Ohio.

The sample was provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample of respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error for the sample of 2,476 voters was (+/-) 2 percent.

Very Large Majorities Support Congressional Bills to Reduce Influence of Big Campaign Donors

A major study of voters’ views of campaign finance finds that large majorities support numerous bills in Congress that seek to reduce or offset the influence of big campaign donors.  These include bills that call for a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, increasing disclosure requirements for campaign donations, and promoting more small campaign donations.

Asked how important they regard “the goal of reducing or counterbalancing the influence of big campaign donors—including special interests, corporations and wealthy people—on the Federal government” 88% said they saw it is as important (60% very important).  This attitude was quite bipartisan with 84% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats saying this is important, though Democrats were more likely to say it is very important (72%) than Republicans (49%).

The most significant change—favored by 75% (Republicans 66%, Democrats 85%)—was a Constitutional amendment that would allow Congress and the states to write campaign finance laws that regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money to influence elections and to distinguish between people and corporations. This would effectively supersede the ‘Citizens United’ decision and allow legislators to restrict or prohibit corporations and other organizations from spending money to influence elections.

For each proposed bill, 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 of and against each proposal, to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced, and that the strongest arguments were presented.

The survey of 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.

“Consistent with other surveys that have found very strong public frustration with the perceived level of influence of campaign donors on elected officials, large majorities are ready to try a wide range of strategies for limiting or counterbalancing the power of campaign donors,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

Overwhelming bipartisan majorities approve a variety of proposals in Congressional bills requiring greater disclosure of campaign-related donations. These include:

  • requiring that all individuals or organizations that donate or receive a total of $10,000 or more for campaign-related activities promptly register with the FEC, have their name and the amount of the donations listed on the Commission’s website.
  • requiring that independent campaign-related expenditures by corporations, unions, and other groups promptly report such spending to shareholders, members, and the general public, as well as the FEC.
  • requiring that names of significant donors paying for TV or radio ads in support of candidates or related to controversial issues be publicly disclosed;
  • requiring that Federal contractors publicly disclose their donations to groups that spend money on campaign-related activities.

 To ensure that all credit card donations to campaigns are coming from US citizens and are not being made to evade limits on donations to a particular candidate, large majorities support requiring donors using credit card to provide the address in which they are registered to vote in the US, to get the CVV on all online donations, and to get and report the address of all donors, not just those giving $50 or more as currently required by law.

 Two proposals for increasing the influence of small donors received strong support, including:

  • providing a tax credit for those who make small donations of up to $50 to candidate
  • providing a six to one match for small donations up to $150 to candidates who first agree to not take any donations over $150, with funded by a charge on large federal contractors.

However, a proposal to make such a six-to-one match using general revenue funds did not get majority support.

 A more modest 55% supported a proposal favors a proposal to prohibit Members of Congress from personally asking donors for donations; though speaking at fundraising events would still be allowed.  Though 58% of Democrats were in favor, Republicans were divided.

Support for public funding of presidential campaigns, however, has little support. Indeed, in light of the fact that the Federal program for providing public funding for presidential campaigns has not been used by any presidential candidates for some time, 66% supports ending the program and its $3 check off on taxpayers’ IRS forms, and directing the unused funds to pediatric research or deficit reduction.

The survey was conducted online in three waves: August 3-16, 2017 with 3,045 registered voters (margin of error +/-1.8%), September 7 – October 3, 2017 with 2,482 registered voters (margin of error +/-2.0%) and September 22 – October 17, 2017 with 2,569 registered voters (margin of error +/-1.9%).   The samples were national probability-based samples provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households.

Americans Evaluate Campaign Finance Reform – Full Report: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Campaign_Finance_Report.pdf

Questionnaire with Frequencies: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Campaign_Finance_Quaire_050118.pdf

Slides with Findings: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Campaign_Finance_Slides_050118.pdf

Try the Surveys Yourself:

Large Majorities Oppose Trump Administration Move to Allow More Offshore Drilling, Ease Inspection Requirements

A new survey of registered voters finds that 60% oppose the Trump Administration’s proposal to lift the ban on oil drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and to expand the allowed area around Alaska.  In the 17 states along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts that would be affected by the lifting of the ban, 64% are opposed.

Respondents were told that among the 17 states that would be affected by the ban, in 15 of them the governors have requested a waiver that would keep the current drilling ban in place. Seventy-one percent of respondents favored granting these states such a waiver.

Residents of the 15 states in which their governors had requested the waivers were asked whether they approved of that request.  Seven in ten said that they did.

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

There were partisan differences. Democrats and independents consistently opposed lifting the ban (86% and 60% respectively) and approved granting waivers (86%, 65%). Among Republicans, two-thirds favored lifting the ban, but 56% approved granting waivers to states requesting them, thus keeping the ban in place.

Among the residents of the 15 coastal states in which the governor has requested a waiver, 88% of Democrats approved of the request as did 50% of Republicans.

The survey was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, with a sample of 2,003 registered voters and released today by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People.

“Republicans seem to have mixed feelings, with majorities supporting both lifting the ban on oil drilling and allowing waivers to the 15 out of 17 states that do not want drilling off their coasts, but the public as a whole unambiguously opposes the Trump Administration’s move to ease the ban on offshore drilling,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

A large bipartisan majority opposed another Trump administration proposal to lift the regulation requiring that oil drilling equipment be inspected by independent auditors certified by the federal government.

Respondents were told that after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, by the company British Petroleum, a bipartisan presidential commission recommended higher safety standards and that outside independent auditors, certified by the federal government, but at company expense, conduct inspections to ensure companies’ compliance with the safety standards.  They were also told that these recommendations were adopted by the federal government.

The argument in favor of the proposal to eliminate the requirement that companies hire independent auditors was found convincing by just 36%, while the counter argument was found convincing by 85%.

Asked for their final recommendation, 74% opposed lifting the regulation requiring that oil drilling equipment be inspected by independent auditors certified by the federal government, including 68% of Republicans, 83% of Democrats and 66% of independents.

“The overwhelming bipartisan support for keeping this higher level of oversight suggests that the memory of the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has not faded in the public mind,” comments Kull.

Respondents also considered a proposal related to an existing fund that Congress created to cover the cost of acting quickly in response to an oil spill in the event the company that caused the oil spill does not have the means to pay for the cleanup or resists taking responsibility. They were told that while this tax has been renewed numerous times over the years, it has at times lapsed, and most recently was only renewed for one year.  They were then presented a proposal to renew the tax for a five-year period, and to raise the amount from 9 cents to 10 cents per barrel of oil.

The argument in favor was found convincing by nine in ten, while the argument against by just three in ten. Asked for their final recommendation, 85% approved of the proposal, including 78% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats, and 82% of independents.

The survey was conducted online from March 9-23, 2018 with a national probability-based sample of 2,003 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%.

Questionnaire with Frequencies: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Offshore_Drilling_Quaire_050118.pdf

Slides with Findings: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Offshore_Drilling_Slides_050118.pdf

Try Survey Yourself: http://vop.org/simulations/sim-offshore-drilling/

Majority of US Voters Oppose Tariffs on Solar Panels

A new survey finds that nearly six in ten voters oppose the new tariffs on solar panels imposed by the Trump administration, including a majority in very red districts.  However, nearly six in ten Republicans favor the tariffs.

On January 22, the Trump administration imposed a tariff on solar panels in response to requests from two solar panel producers with operations in the United States.  The two companies, named Suniva and Solar World, said that solar panels were being imported from other countries, especially from Asia, in such high volumes that these companies could not compete.  The tariffs are 30% in year one, declining to 25% in year two, 20% in year three and 15% in year four.  A new bill in Congress, with bipartisan sponsorship, has just been dropped to reverse these new tariffs.

The survey of 1,999 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 (VOP). Neither VOP nor PPC take a position on the issues, but seek to the give the public a greater voice.

Respondents were given a short briefing including why the tariffs were imposed and the opposition from solar installers and environmental groups.  They were then 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 the solar tariffs, to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced, and that the strongest arguments were presented.

Steven Kull, director of PPC commented, “While Americans do respond to the arguments that American jobs are being lost to low price imports and that the US should push for better trade deals, the counter arguments–that tariffs could hurt the solar industry overall, and that there is a risk of starting a trade war—do better. While protectionist arguments hold some sway, in the end the majority comes down against the new tariffs.”

The first argument in favor of the tariffs stressed the economic benefits.

A tariff on solar energy panels will help protect some manufacturers of solar cells and panels, operating in the U.S., whose products are being undercut by a surge of lower-priced imports.  Some of these companies have gone bankrupt, costing American jobs, and more could follow.  The tariffs will give these companies a few years of breathing room they need to flourish. According to the government, this relief from the tariffs could generate thousands of new jobs in the solar manufacturing industry.

This argument was found convincing by 65%, including 58% of Democrats as well as 73% of Republicans.

The counter argument said:

These tariffs will ultimately hurt the solar industry and American workers as well.  The tariffs will raise prices on solar products, making solar energy more expensive.  Tariffs don’t help build manufacturing infrastructure in the US – smart energy policy does.  According to industry experts, though tariffs may benefit a few solar manufacturers, for the industry overall, they will result in about 20,000 fewer high-paying jobs.  Solar was finally getting cheap enough to compete with coal, providing a low-cost alternative electricity source and leading to cleaner and healthier air.

A slightly larger number found it convincing—71%, especially among Democrats (84%).  However, a smaller majority of Republicans (57%) found it convincing.

The next argument in favor of the tariffs emphasized the potential for better terms in trade deals saying:

Many of the trade deals that are negotiated between the United States and other countries are a bad deal, and America’s inability to compete in the manufacture of solar energy panels is yet another reflection of those bad deals. The United States has too often let countries like China push us around. The United States should more strongly confront other countries on how they treat America and get better deals. Pushing back on low-priced solar energy panels is a good place to start.

A more modest 55% found this argument convincing.  While a large majority of Republicans (74%) found it convincing this was true of less than half of Democrats (39%).

The counterargument went as follows:

If we start putting up tariffs against imports, it will only hurt us in the end.  Other countries will retaliate and put tariffs on US products and we could end up in an escalating trade war.  Reducing the supply of solar panels will cost the jobs of Americans who install them. Free and fair trade has been an important part of the growth of the US economy, resulting in lower prices for American consumers.  It is fine to try to negotiate better trade deals, but randomly picking solar energy panels as a target for new tariffs does not make sense.

This did substantially better than the pro argument with 68% finding it convincing, including a slight majority of Republicans (52%), as well as an overwhelming majority of Democrats (85%).

Asked for their final recommendation, 58% said they opposed imposing “a tariff on solar energy panels of 30% in year one, declining to 25% in year two, 20% in year three and 15% in year four,” including an overwhelming 76% of Democrats and a slight majority (51%) of independents.  However, 58% of Republicans favored the tariff.

The sample was divided six ways according to Cook PVI rating for the district in which they lived.  Among those living in very red districts opposition to the tariffs was lower than for the nation as a whole, but still a majority of 54% were opposed.  In very blue districts 67% were opposed.

Among Republicans support for the tariffs is highly related to attitudes about Trump.  Among Republicans who voted for Trump, 63% favored the tariffs, while among those who did not only 27% did with 71% opposed.

Steven Kull comments, “Historically there have been minor differences between Republicans and Democrats on trade issues.  It appears that Donald Trump’s challenge to the prevailing trade order is related to growing polarization between Republicans and Democrats in the public.  Ironically, this polarization is in a direction that is the opposite of the historical polarization between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.”

For all educational levels a majority was opposed, but opposition was lowest among those with high school or less (53%), rising with higher educational levels and reaching 67% among those with higher degrees.

Opposition was higher among those age 18-34 (62%) and 35-44 (65%), dropping at higher ages, with the lowest level of opposition being 52% among those age 65 and up.

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%.

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

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.



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