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Poll: Graduated income tax might be a squeaker

Monday, Mar 18, 2019

* Poll taken for group supporting graduated income tax finds support for graduated income tax

Global Strategy Group recently conducted a poll on behalf of Think Big Illinois among 800 Illinois registered voters March 8-12, finding broad support for Governor Pritzker’s fair tax plan, with little public opposition to it.

* From the pollster

• Despite the opposition’s best efforts to activate the public against the fair tax, voters are not paying attention to this debate right now. Just 14% of voters say they have head “a lot” about proposed new changes to Illinois’ tax system, while six out of ten voters have heard little to nothing about it (62% heard “a little” or “nothing”). As a result, when we ask whether voters support or oppose “Governor Pritzker’s fair tax plan” generically with no additional description, a plurality of voters (42%) do not know enough to say, while more support it (33%) than oppose it (25%).

Looks like Pritzker’s name alone isn’t enough to give the plan a huge boost.

* Back to the memo

• But it’s clear that the idea behind Governor Pritzker’s fair tax is incredibly popular. Support skyrockets – and opposition stays flat – when the public hears a basic explanation of the plan. Six in ten voters (64%) support the plan after hearing a basic description of it (+31 from initial support), while opposition stays flat at 27% (just +2). Importantly, intensity is on the plan’s side with 37% strong support and just 17% strong opposition. The following is the description of the plan voters heard:

    Under Governor Pritzker’s fair tax plan, 97% of Illinois residents would not see a state income tax increase. Only those making $250,000 a year or more will see their taxes go up with the largest increases going to those making more than $1 million.

64 percent is actually lower than the 72 percent who supported a generic progressive income tax in last year’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll. The lower number could be because this new poll actually let people know who would pay more, but it could also be partly because the governor’s name was attached to it. There might be a ceiling of support when Pritzker’s name is used.

* Pollster

• Support is strong across the state, while opposition only exists at the fringes. Support spans across the state at 67% in the city of Chicago, 66% in suburban Cook County, 66% in the Collar Counties, and 60% Downstate. The Democratic base is fully supportive of it (83% support), while the Republican base is fractured, with even four in ten GOP voters in favor of it (41% support/49% oppose).

You can bet your house that those supportive GOP voters will be targeted heavily by the opposition. Partisanship is their best first move to undercut overall support. Pritzker will likely continue talking about bipartisanship right through election day to help counter this.

* Pollster

• Individual elements of the plan are incredibly popular with 70%+ support. Consider that:

    o 79% say they are more favorable to the plan when learning that “the plan would help the state meet its obligation to fund schools”
    o 78% say so when learning “97% of taxpayers will have their taxes remain the same or be reduced”
    o 76% say so when learning “it would provide $3.4 billion to fix the state budget crisis”
    o 70% say so when learning “only people making more than $250,000 dollars will see a tax increase”

Keep in mind that Pritzker will have plenty of money to spend on these positive messages. No way is he going to passively allow this to go down in flames if it makes it onto the ballot. He’ll be branded a loser just as he pivots toward reelection. And his entire fiscal plan will be in ruins. He’s gonna spend money like he did last year.

* Pollster

• Opposition arguments have been ineffective, and will continue to be ineffective, because they are weak and do not resonate with the public. After voters hear both positive and negative arguments about the plan, including many of the arguments made by opponents in recent weeks, support does not budge – 63% support (off just one point from where voters are when they hear an initial description of the plan) and 31% oppose (just four points higher). Intensity remains on the support side of the issue (34% strongly support vs. just 21% strongly oppose).

Notice they didn’t say what those negative arguments were. I can’t help but wonder if they tested the “Because… Madigan will eventually raise your taxes!” line.

Also, keep in mind that the opponents only have to keep the “Yes” votes under 60 percent to win at the ballot box (assuming it gets there), or under 50 percent of all people voting in the 2020 election. 63 percent is awful close.

* Methodology

Global Strategy Group conducted a statewide telephone survey between March 8th and March 12, 2019 among 800 registered voters. The survey had a margin of error of +/-3.5%. Care has been taken to ensure the geographic and demographic divisions of the population of registered voters are properly represented.

* Related…

I put the accompanying press release for that event in the live coverage post.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

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* *** UPDATED x1 - Think Big Illinois responds *** Rate the new Ideas Illinois digital ad opposing the graduated income tax
* *** UPDATED x1 - ILGOP responds *** Rate Think Big Illinois' new TV ad
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