Poll: 61 Percent of Washington Voters Say No to Taxes, Majority Embraces Senate Position

Seattle Voters are the Contrarians, Says Pollster Bob Moore

By Erik Smith
Washington State Wire

On the most taxing question, voters say no to taxes 51-36.

On the most taxing question, voters say no to taxes 61-26.

OLYMPIA, May 17.—A new poll from Moore Information in Portland shows that the vast majority of voters in Washington state turn thumbs-down on tax hikes, even when keywords like “education” and “state services” are mentioned. Some 61 percent of voters statewide said that if they were writing the state budget, they’d reduce spending, even if crucial programs are cut. Just 26 percent say they’d raise taxes.

And when the Legislature’s current debate is explained, a majority favors the Senate’s no-new-tax position. This may not surprise you, though: The only part of the state that seems to feel differently about it is the city of Seattle. So says pollster Bob Moore, whose firm conducted the poll of 400 Evergreen State voters April 21-22.

“The voters of the state are saying don’t increase spending, don’t increase taxes,” Moore says. “That is the majority sentiment. There are significant numbers that say yes we should, but more of them say don’t increase spending and don’t increase taxes on the other side. I wouldn’t call them penny-pinchers, but they are more concerned about spending levels than taking care of all the programs being suggested.”

The poll is sure to figure in the Legislature’s current debate about tax increases. Indeed, it was conducted for a client Moore says does not wish its name released, a tell-tale sign that the interested party has something at stake in the multi-billion-dollar debate over taxes and spending. But as always, it’s the finding that counts — not to mention the actual questions that are asked.

Hard No on Hikes

The statewide findings are striking. Voters were asked two key questions. The first: “What do you think is the most important thing that should be done to balance the state budget? Reduce spending, even if some crucial programs are cut? Or increase taxes, even if it is hard for middle-class families?”

The result was heavily weighted toward the reduce-spending side. Some 49 percent said they strongly favored the position, and 12 percent said they preferred it, for a total 61 percent.

Some 17 percent said they strongly favored increasing taxes, and 9 percent said they preferred that position, for a total 26 percent. Some 13 percent said they didn’t know.

State Endorses Senate Plan

Results on a second question get to the heart of the legislative debate and appear to endorse the state Senate’s hold-the-line position on taxes, 51-36. Voters were asked about one approach being considered at the statehouse – an aggressive effort to end tax exemptions and extend the “temporary taxes” imposed in 2010 that are scheduled to expire in June. Both Gov. Jay Inslee and the House Democrats favor that position, though it should be noted that the House Ds dropped their plan to continue a beer tax the day after polling commenced. The Senate has passed a budget with no tax increases, while boosting spending on K-12 education by $1 billion.

Voters were asked, “Here are two potential options for solving the state’s budget challenges. Please listen carefully and tell me which one you prefer. Option A – Make permanent the 2010 temporary business and occupation and beer taxes, and close existing tax loopholes in order to increase education funding by $1.3 billion. Option B – Balance the budget with no new taxes, while maintaining current funding levels for most state services and increase education funding by $1 billion.”

Some 51 percent favored the Senate approach, 36 percent favored the House approach, and 12 percent said they didn’t know.

Dems, Seattle Think Differently

Moore’s poll, balanced across geographic regions of the state, noted one big disparity. Democrats and Seattle residents appeared far more amenable to taxes than the state as a whole. On the overall tax question, nearly half of Democrats, some 49 percent, said they would increase taxes, and a large minority of Seattle residents, 43 percent, said the same. On the House-versus-Senate question, majorities of Democrats and Seattle voters favored the House D position.

The poll asked a few other policy questions. Nearly nine out of ten voters, 89 percent, said they supported the idea of “cutting wasteful government spending and moving toward a more lean and efficient state government.” Some seven out of ten, 71 percent, agreed with the thought that “now is the wrong time to raise taxes on working families and struggling businesses.”

One truth of the polling biz is that the results can change depending on what questions are asked and how they are phrased. Polls that measure support for specific programs often get different results. But Moore said that wasn’t the issue being tested here – nor, for that matter, is it the overarching question before this year’s Legislature. “There is no question that people react to the words they hear in a question, and some programs are more popular than others,” he says.

“If you were to talk about law enforcement or education, in terms of do you think we should spend more or spend less, that would be a different issue than we approached. These questions are looking at the sentiment in general. You might find that some specific programs are very popular, but in general the bulk of voters say we’ve got to hold down spending, hold down taxes.”

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  • ChronicKindness

    Yes the words used are important. That’s why the tax-spend crowd always throw the children, the sick or the elderly out in front of any tax increase. … but it’s for the kids …. but it’s for the sick and elderly …. when in fact it’s for the money the lawmakers raided from these groups for the general funding of government slush.

  • http://www.TaxSanity.org/ Steve Zemke TaxSanity.org

    A quick Google search of pollster Bob Moore of Portland finds him identified repeatedly as a Republican pollster, working with national Republican groups and producing polling showing Dino Rossi beating Senator Patty Murray and wishing that Dave Reichert would have run. I think we can figure out which side he is polling for regarding this latest poll.
    The poll is essentially push polling – asking would you support raising taxes even if its hard for middle class families. Give me a break. And on the other side it doesn’t say what spending would be cut.

    Moore acknowledges that if you started talking about specific programs the results would be different. This poll is nothing more than a generic poll asking if you want to see your taxes raised. We already know the answer to that. That’s not the real question facing the state and this poll adds no new information as to how to fund our schools and other state programs that need funding.

    • ChronicKindness

      Steve Zemeke – The tax and spend mantra “but it’s for the children” doesn’t sell in WA anywhere outside of seattle.

      Call Eyman tho – he can probably get you a good deal on the paid signatures you’ll need to qualify your insanity tax initiative. I’d love to see it on the ballot. So it can be pounded down by the voters, just as the income tax initiative was.

      Is your sugar daddy SEIU/FUSE gonna buy your way onto the ballot?

      • http://www.TaxSanity.org/ Steve Zemke TaxSanity.org

        Great to see Chronic that you support tax exemptions for businesses even when they produce no tangible benefit to the rest of the taxpayers of this state. Some tax expenditures make sense like property tax reductions for lower income senior citizens but welfare for profitable corporations don’t. Creating a tax expenditure budget and having Legislators vote to approve it will make the system more accountable. But it seems you don’t really understand what the initiative proposes. But if you believe what you say why don’t you add your name to the discussion rather than trying to be anonymous.

      • Steve

        Steve Zemke you have to piggy back your paid people with the
        Eyman people which our really the same people. Angelo hires
        99 % Eyman signature gathers and eyman hire’s the same
        people. So without the liberals helping eyman . Mr Eyman
        wouldnt make it to the ballot. Right Eddie ? Steve your
        paid just like Eyman got paid to run an iniaitive drive. Your
        Specials interests just happen to be a bit lazy.

      • Name

        Eyman & Eddie our hoping that the SEIU does buy Zemkes
        way to the ballot. Because it helps them get on the ballot

  • NoSpin

    I’m shocked -SHOCKED! – that the Conservatives’ chosen out-of-state push-polling firm discovered that taxes are unpopular… Almost as surprised that conservative ‘Washington State Wire’ is running this as ‘news’