February, 2013 – Poll on State Budget Finds Clear Differences

The Maine polling organization with the best history of accuracy in public opinion research today released the results of a new poll examining Legislative options to resolve Maine’s biennial budget gap. The Maine People’s Resource Center (MPRC) poll of 558 registered voters (with a margin of error of 4.15%, 95 times out of 100) found large differences in support between the eleven budget options examined.

The poll found that Governor LePage’s job approval has remained steady, with 39.5% of respondents approving of his conduct as governor and 54.1% disapproving. 41.6% of those surveyed approved of the performance of Democrats in the Legislature with 44.8% disapproving and 13.6% not having formed an opinion.

The poll adapted a form of question wording first pioneered by the Washington Post to examine the federal fiscal debate, asking respondents if they would find a series of options that have been proposed for closing the state budget gap either “acceptable” or “unacceptable.” The poll asked two broad questions about making cuts to the two largest areas of the Maine budget -education and health care- and a series of questions around specific potential changes to the tax code that may be considered by the Legislature.

“Maine people obviously don’t think all taxes are created equal,” said MPRC Communications Director Mike Tipping. “This poll found increases in property taxes to be overwhelmingly unacceptable, with 84.6% opposed, while an option that would make the tax code fairer by increasing taxes on the wealthy was found to be acceptable by a 79% majority.”

Results were more mixed on other some of the other options examined. A question on increasing the sales tax by one cent found only a small majority stating that the idea was acceptable and a question on cancelling all of the tax cuts passed in the last session found a plurality declaring that to be acceptable, but with a large number of respondents (20.3%) having not yet formed an opinion.

The poll also found Mainers currently more likely to blame Governor LePage than Democratic Legislators for a failure to reach a budget agreement by a difference of ten percentage points, but with 14.1% of respondents undecided.

MPRC has a solid track record of accuracy in public opinion research. As former LePage Communications and Legislative Affairs Director Dan Demerrit recently noted, “Over the last two years they have polled eight contests and, without fail, their findings among the published public polls have been closest to the actual results.”