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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%.

In-Depth Study Finds Bipartisan Majorities Do Not Support Reducing Taxes on High Incomes, Eliminating State and Local Tax Deductions

A new in-depth survey on tax reform finds that fewer than one in four voters overall, and fewer than four in ten Republicans, support lowering taxes for incomes over $200,000.  Sixty nine percent, including 55% of Republicans, oppose the Senate bill’s complete elimination of the deductions for state and local taxes (SALT).  However 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%), with 56% of Republicans favoring it.

The study of 1,750 registered voters, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), was released today by Voice of the People, a nonpartisan organization seeking to give citizens a greater voice in public policy.

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), 60% were opposed, including 80% of Democrats and 67% of independents.  However, 65% of Republicans favored the proposal.

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.

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 45% favored increasing taxes on incomes over $500,000 and 47% 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.

Though very large majorities found convincing the arguments for lowering taxes on the middle class, only modest majorities proposed reducing taxes on those with incomes from $30-$40,000 (52%) and $40-$50,000 (54%) by 5% or more. This included substantial majorities of Republicans, but only half of Democrats.  For income of $50,000 to $100,000, there was not majority support for decreases, but 56% of Republicans cut taxes by 5 percent or more on incomes of $50-$75,000 and 54% on incomes of $75-$100,000.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation report, the net effect of the House and Senate bills would be to lower the average taxes by 7-9 percent for incomes of $30-$50,000, and 7-9 percent for incomes of $50-$100,000.

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 were divided with 49% in favor and 50% opposed.

Steven Kull commented, “Republicans and Democrats diverge sharply on lowering most corporate taxes, with the exception of eliminating tax for overseas subsidiaries, on which Republicans are divided.  On individual taxes, Democrats and Republicans find some common ground, especially in opposing tax cuts for high incomes and fully eliminating the state and local deductions.”

Several proposals elicited divided responses overall, with sharp partisan divisions.  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. 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.  The Senate bill has a more complex formula for allowing immediate expensing.

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.  The Senate bill maintains the current cap of $1 million.

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.  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 seven percent of Republicans thought that the $1.5 trillion reduction was acceptable.

The survey was conducted online with a national probability-based sample of 1,750 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%.

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

Download Powerpoint Presentation: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Tax_Reform_Slides.pdf 

Download Questionnaire: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Tax_Reform_Quaire.pdf

In-depth Survey Finds Bipartisan Consensus on Steps to Address Medicare Shortfall

The problem of Medicare solvency has gained renewed prominence as the new Congressional budget calls for reducing spending on Medicare by nearly half a billion dollars over the next decade.  Last month, the government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid issued a request for input on addressing Medicare’s problems in light of the Medicare Trustees’ projected shortfall and forewarning that by the year 2028 benefits would need to be cut and/or premiums increased.

A representative sample of 8,000 voters was presented the problem of the Medicare shortfall and asked to evaluate various options for addressing it. Majorities (most of them bipartisan) recommended a series of steps that would eliminate nearly a third of the Medicare shortfall (in a 25 year time frame), while majorities said they could “tolerate” additional steps that would eliminate most of it. The survey was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, on behalf of Voice of the People (VOP), a nonpartisan nonprofit organization.

Respondents evaluated various options for reducing the shortfall by both reducing costs and raising revenues, including ones considered by Congress as part of the recent budget resolution.

Seven options were recommended by majorities (five of them bipartisan majorities), enough to reduce the Medicare shortfall by 30 percent.

Eight additional options were found at least “tolerable” by majorities, which would eliminate an additional 67 percent of the shortfall.

“If Congress needs some direction on how to reduce the Medicare shortfall, it may behoove them to listen to the considered views of American voters,” commented Steven Kull, President of VOP and director of PPC.

For each option, respondents were first presented a short briefing, told how much it would reduce the shortfall, and evaluated strongly-stated arguments for and against the option.  All of this content was reviewed by Congressional staffers from both parties and other experts from across the spectrum of opinion.

The option generating the biggest return was an increase in the Medicare payroll tax from 1.45 to 1.55 percent, which would cover 11.3 percent of the shortfall.  It was recommended by 67% (Republicans 69%, Democrats 68%).

Four additional options recommended by bipartisan majorities:

  • Encouraging the use of generic drugs by dropping their co-pay to zero and raising the co-pay on their brand-name equivalents, covering 2 percent of the shortfall—recommended by 69% (Republicans 71%, Democrats 70%).
  • Requiring pharmaceutical companies to pay a higher rebate for prescriptions to recipients with modest incomes, covering 3 percent of the shortfall—recommended by 69% (Republicans 69%, Democrats 69%).
  • Increasing, by 15 percent, the premiums paid by higher-income seniors (defined as individuals with incomes over $85,000 and $170,000 for a couple), covering 3.5 percent of the shortfall—recommended by 59% (Republicans 58%, Democrats 63%).
  • Lowering the payments to hospitals for services to Medicare recipients to make them equal to the amount paid to doctors’ offices for the same services, covering 2 percent of the shortfall—recommended by 56% (Republicans 56%, Democrats 56%).

Two options were endorsed by majorities, but this did not include a majority of Democrats:

  • Capping awards for damages for pain and suffering at $250,000, and awards for punitive damages at either $500,000, or twice the amount of the award for economic damages, covering 4 percent of the shortfall—recommended by 54% (Republicans 65%, Democrats 46%).
  • Modifying recipients’ deductibles and hospital costs in a way that would increase deductibles, while putting a cap on the recipient’s expenses for hospital care, covering 4 percent of the shortfall—recommended by 52% (Republicans 56%, Democrats divided).

These options selected were previously scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), except for one scored by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

Samples of more than 400 were obtained in eight different states ranging from very Republican Oklahoma to very Democratic New York, but there was remarkably little difference between them.

The survey was conducted online between August 24 and November 11, 2016.  The national sample panel of 7,959 respondents was recruited from the larger panel of Nielsen-Scarborough, which was recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households.  Additional recruiting of 251 respondents in Maryland, Oklahoma and Virginia by telephone and mail was conducted by Communications for Research. The margin of error for the national sample was (+/-) 1.1 percent.

The full report of the results can be found at: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Medicare_Report.pdf.

The questionnaire can be found at: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Medicare_Quaire.pdf.

VOP Contributes to New Report on State of the Congress

Americans widely believe that Congress is not working because it does not want to work. Conventional wisdom holds that the blame for any democratic dysfunction lies primarily with current occupants of Capitol Hill. Congress may not be working well because it does not currently have the capacity to work well. The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) offers an alternative perspective in a new report, State of the Congress: Staff Perspectives on Institutional Capacity in the House and Senate. The CMF worked with VOP and other organizations to facilitate information-sharing and collaboration for positive institutional change in Congress.

In campaign ads, television shows, movies, and the news, Congress is portrayed as lavish, profligate and corrupt, but this is not the case. The reality is that most of the 541 Senators, Representatives, and Delegates in Congress are honorable, dedicated individuals trying to represent their constituents and the country as best they can. However, the processes, rules, practices, and external forces that influence our democracy have changed in ways that are making it very difficult for legislators to effectively fulfill their mission.

Download the Report (PDF)

Majorities Oppose All Key Provisions of House-Passed Healthcare Bill, Including in Very Red Districts

While Senate Republicans move toward finalizing their healthcare plan, a new in-depth survey finds that all of the key provisions of the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) are opposed by clear majorities. Overall, 67 percent oppose the legislation.

The study, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), includes a six-way breakdown of voters by their congressional districts ranging from very red (Republican) to very blue (Democratic) districts and finds that even in very red districts majorities oppose nearly all of the key provisions and 63 percent oppose it overall.

Seven-in-ten independents oppose the AHCA, as well as a near-unanimous 94 percent of Democrats. Among Republicans, 64 percent favor the AHCA overall, but majorities oppose several of its major provisions.

“Senate Republicans face an uphill climb in crafting a version of the AHCA that will get majority public support, even in red states,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “While the Senate is talking about adjusting the House bill, it is still largely working with the same components which are quite unpopular.”

Allowing Consideration of Pre-existing Conditions: Allowing states to get waivers that would allow insurance companies to not cover or to charge higher rates to individuals with pre-existing conditions is another AHCA provision that encounters overwhelming and bipartisan opposition. More than three-quarters are opposed, as are six-in-ten Republicans. Three-quarters are also opposed in very red districts, as well as more than eight-in-ten in very blue districts.

Allowing Higher Premium Rates for Older Individuals: AHCA allows insurance companies to charge older individuals five times more than younger people, as compared to three times more under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). This provision was the least popular provision with eight-in-ten opposing it. This was strikingly unanimous with two-thirds of Republicans opposed, as well as eight-in-ten in very red districts.

Repealing Requirement for Covering Essential Benefits: The AHCA gives states the ability to allow insurance companies to offer plans that do not include certain benefits required under the ACA, thus enabling lower-cost plans. This provision is opposed by two-thirds, with six-in-ten are opposed in very red districts as compared to three-quarters in very blue ones. Six in ten independents and more than eight-in-ten Democrats oppose it. But a majority of Republicans are in favor.

Replacing Individual Mandate With Renewal Penalty: The highest level of support of all the AHCA provisions was for its proposal to replace the ACA’s mandate for individuals to have health insurance with a renewal penalty for those who let it lapse. However, support is still less than half (44 percent) and a majority (55 percent) is opposed. In very red districts views were evenly divided, while in very blue districts two-thirds are opposed. A modest majority of independents (53 percent) are opposed, as are 79 percent of Democrats. Seventy-one percent of Republicans favor it.

Healthcare for Low-Income Populations: Six-in-ten oppose the general AHCA plan for low-income populations, including 53 percent in very red districts. Evaluating each of its components, majorities find unacceptable its general reduction in spending on Medicaid (55 percent), its repealing of the expansion of Medicaid (53 percent), its plan for premium support (56 percent) and out of pocket expenses (59 percent), and its repeal of the taxes, primarily on higher incomes, that support the current plan (53 percent).

In contrast, evaluating the plan for low-income populations in the ACA, 62 percent find it acceptable overall, including 57 percent in very red districts. Also majorities find acceptable its plan for Medicaid expansion (53 percent), premium support (61 percent), and out of pocket expenses (57 percent) and its tax plan (57 percent).

Interestingly, half of Republicans find the ACA plan acceptable and two-thirds find it at least tolerable. Also, most components are found acceptable to majorities of Republicans, with larger majorities finding acceptable the ACA’s plan for premium support (62 percent) and out of pocket expenses (57 percent) than that of AHCA (55 percent and 54 percent respectively). The exception is the ACA’s tax plan, which is found acceptable by just 45 percent, but at least tolerable by six-in-ten.

Repealing Employer Mandate: Two-thirds oppose the AHCA’s repeal of the requirement that employers with more than 50 employees provide healthcare insurance, with opposition ranging from six-in-ten in very red districts to three-in-four in very blue districts. Sixty-two percent of independents are opposed, as are 86 percent of Democrats. However, 59 percent of Republicans favor it.

Disallowing Access to Planned Parenthood: Sixty-seven percent oppose the AHCA provision not allowing Medicaid benefits to be used at Planned Parenthood clinics, including 61 percent in very red districts. Sixty-nine percent of independents are opposed as are 92 percent of Democrats. However, 63 percent of Republicans favor it.

The survey was conducted online between June 8 – 13, 2017with a national probability-based sample of 2,430 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was (+/-) 2 percent.

A report of the results can be found at:
http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Healthcare_Report.pdf

The questionnaire can be found at:
http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Healthcare_Quaire.pdf



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