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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

Do the People of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania Support President Trump’s Paris Agreement Withdrawal?

As President Donald J. Trump announced the withdrawal of participation by the United States in the Paris climate accord, he claimed his decision was in service of people in a number of midwestern states, saying

It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country, before Paris, France.

However, VOP’s recent survey on U.S. energy policy found support for U.S. participation in the Paris agreement, among 71 percent of Americans overall, including 66 percent in Ohio, 68 percent in Michigan, and 74 percent in Pennsylvania. These responses came after hearing strongly-stated arguments that highlighted potential costs as well as arguments in favor.

See the results on this question here.

The full report can be seen here.

Americans Support Greater Federal Efforts to Reduce Poverty 

As Congress begins to debate the FY2018 budget, a new study reveals strong support for greater federal efforts to reduce poverty. The study, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), finds that majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree on numerous new options for federal poverty programs.

Support for addressing child poverty was especially strong. Seventy-two percent favored an idea currently being promoted in Congress to make pre-kindergarten available to all 4-year-olds in low-income families and expand the availability of Early Head Start programs to more children, age three and under, from low-income families. This included 52 percent of Republicans as well as 90 percent of Democrats.

Three-quarters favored an idea, also currently being promoted in Congress, to establish a commission to develop a plan to reduce child poverty by half in 10 years and to seek to eliminate it within 20 years (including 59 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats).

There was bipartisan support for raising the federal minimum wage, but not as far as some popular liberal proposals. Three-in-four favored raising the minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $9.00 over a two-year period (including 58 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats). Fifty-seven percent were ready to go further and raise it to $10.10, but only one-in-three Republicans were willing to take this step.

Sixty-three percent favored indexing the federal minimum wage to inflation, but this was true of just 46 percent of Republicans.

“Contrary to what we see in Congress, when Americans consider federal options for addressing poverty they find quite a lot of bipartisan common ground for taking action,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “There is a clear consensus that the federal government has a role to play in fighting poverty.”

Overwhelming bipartisan majorities favored establishing federal job creation programs to employ people who have been unemployed for a period. However there was division on whether these programs should be instituted under current conditions or whether the federal government should have them ready to if economic conditions worsen. For the most popular program, which would employ young people in public land preservation projects, 57 percent favored starting the program now, but this was true of only 46 percent of Republicans.

There was support for making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) available to more low-wage workers without children. Six-in-ten favored raising the maximum amount they can make and still be eligible for EITC from $14,820 to $18,000 (51 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of Democrats).

Six-in-ten, including 54 percent of Democrats, approved of the conservative idea of giving states the option of receiving federal poverty program funds in the form of block grants for some programs, which the states would then administer with federal regulation.

Addressing the problem of nonpayment of wages, which tends to disproportionately hurt low-income workers, 89 percent favored a proposal saying that if a company under a government contract is found guilty of not paying wages, the company will lose the right to bid on government contracts.

In previously released findings, when told about current levels of benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—commonly known as ‘food stamps’—large majorities favored increasing them including two-thirds of Republicans and nine-in-ten Democrats. However, there was also overwhelming bipartisan support for the conservative idea of limiting what SNAP benefits can be used for—disallowing sweetened sodas or candy.

Support for Medicaid expansion was quite strong, with two thirds supporting it in their state, including 62 percent in states that have not elected to expand it. 

The survey was conducted online with a national probability-based sample of 7,128 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 +/- 1.2 percent.

The study was unique in that respondents received a short briefing on the proposals for reforming federal poverty program and evaluated strongly stated arguments both for and against each option before making their final recommendations. The briefing and the pro and con arguments were developed and reviewed by key staffers from both parties, who deal with these issues from Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. In addition, specialists were consulted representing the spectrum of opinion on the issues.

The sample also included samples of approximately 400 or more from eight states—Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, California, Maryland and New York. Despite the range from very red to very blue, the results in all the states were largely the same as for the national sample.

The report can be found at: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Poverty_Report.pdf

The survey’s questionnaire can be found at: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Poverty_Quaire.pdf

Trump’s ‘Taxpayer First’ Budget Puts the People Second

In presenting the Trump administration’s budget for FY 2018 and beyond, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney claimed that this budget is a ‘taxpayer’s first’ budget, meaning that it was formed to meet the priorities of the American taxpayers, consistent with President Donald J. Trump’s repeated affirmations, during the campaign and in his inaugural speech, that this administration would be directly guided by the people’s priorities.

However, the president’s budget, like his earlier ‘Budget Blueprint,’ is remarkably out of step with the public’s priorities as revealed in various surveys conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC) in conjunction with Voice Of the People. Both organizations do not take a position on this issue or lobby on any legislation.

The most dramatic feature of the president’s new budget is the sharp cuts in spending on poverty programs especially to SNAP benefits (more commonly know as food stamps) and Medicaid. Such programs are sometimes presumed to be unpopular with taxpayers because they benefit a minority of Americans.

However, when PPC presented respondents with the average SNAP benefits for the average recipient living alone, 81 percent (including 66 percent of Republicans) proposed raising the benefit, with the majority raising it by 43 percent.

The Medicaid expansion program under the Affordable Care Act is a major target of the Trump budget. However, 64 percent favor Medicaid expansion for their state, including 62 percent in the states that have not accepted it. Support among Republicans was lower, though, at 43 percent.

“It is easy for the Trump administration to assume that, because they were elected, that their budget priorities are consistent with those of the public,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “However, substantial research shows that a real ‘taxpayers first’ budget would look quite different from the one that they are proposing.”

Proposed spending levels in the Trump budget are equally out of step with the budget that a large representative sample of voters made up when they were presented authorized discretionary spending levels for 2017 and allowed to make their own budget. While majorities did concur with Trump’s proposed cuts to subsidies to agricultural corporations, they did not agree with his cuts to education, medical research, pollution control, public housing, or the size of his cuts to the State Department and AID.

They did not agree with his increases to military spending (preferring a $39 billion cut to a $54 billion increase), or to increases to Veterans affairs and homeland security.

Perhaps most striking is the gap on revenues. Large bipartisan majorities do agree with his proposal to repeal the ‘carried interest’ provision that allows investment fund managers to have their income taxed at a preferential rate. But his proposals to eliminate the estate tax or to give owners of pass-through-entities a preferential rate are rejected by more than six in ten in both parties. While Trump has called for reducing corporate taxes and taxes on capital gains and dividends, majorities (though not a bipartisan ones) favor modest increases.

Trump has called for cuts to income taxes for higher earners. But nearly two thirds of voters (including a slight majority of Republicans) favors at least a five percent increase in the effective tax rate for incomes over $200,000.

The survey on the federal budget was conducted March 8–16, 2017. The sample of 1,817 voters was provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample or respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was (+/-) 2.3 percent.

The survey on federal poverty programs was conducted November 11–December10, 2016. The sample of 7,128 voters was provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its sample or respondents, recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was (+/-) 1.2 percent.

The full report on the PPC budget survey can be found at:
http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Federal_Budget_2018_Report.pdf

The budget survey questionnaire can be found at:
http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Federal_Budget_2018_Quaire.pdf

The public release of the full PPC survey results on federal poverty programs is forthcoming.



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