Poll shows response to gas tax hike, economy


GASOLINE TAX

New Jersey residents agree on opposing a higher gas tax, but are divided on how to improve the state of the economy, according to two polls conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

Results showed a majority of residents are opposed to raising the gas tax in light of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s, D-32, support for the issue, according to a press release from Eagleton.

The other survey reveals the state disagrees on whether the country’s best economic days are behind it.

David Redlawsk, director of Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, is not surprised residents are against the tax hike. He found the context of the question played a large role in the opinions of the 842 participants that were surveyed.

“No one in New Jersey wants to pay more in taxes when we’re taxed so heavily already,” said Redlawsk, a professor in the Department of Political Science. “But with more context, it gave people more to think about.”

When the poll informed respondents that raising the tax would fund road maintenance and improvements, they were less supportive of the idea of raising the tax.

“There’s little support because of this rough winter, anyone who drives knows there are potholes everywhere, and the roads are in really bad shape,” he said.

John Weingart, associate director at Eagleton, said he thought the conditions of the roads would be a detail that would cause more support of the tax.

“The need for more funding for transportation improvements has been in discussion for [more than] 20 years now,” Weingart said. “I thought with so many people driving, who are aware of the deteriorating conditions of the roads, [they] would see this as a need that should be met.”

When they were told the current tax stands at the third lowest in the country and has not changed in 20 years, respondents were more supportive of the idea. The current gasoline tax is 14.5 cents per gallon.

Weingart said the current tax does provide funds for road maintenance, but the raise in the tax would provide more coverage than New Jersey has had for the past two decades.

Regardless of how the question is worded, about two-thirds of respondents oppose a tax raise, while only one-third supports it.

“Almost always when asked, people will say no to a tax increase regardless of what’s needed,” he said.

According to the press release, the political parties and incomes of those questioned also changed the participants’ responses.

Democrats were more supportive of a tax hike than Republicans and independents, according to the press release. Higher-income residents were also more supportive than those with lower incomes.

INCOME INEQUALITY

Political parties also played a part in the poll about the country’s economic future.

According to another press release, 51 percent of New Jersey residents have the optimistic belief that America’s economic trouble is temporary. Forty-five percent believe America’s best economic days are behind it.

Those with a more pessimistic view toward the state of the economy believed living standards would be lower for future generations, according to the press release.

Democrats and Republicans were divided over whether America’s biggest problem is too much government or income inequality.

“We’re a fairly liberal state, but it’s not surprising that Democrats believe income inequality is the bigger problem, as it is a core Democratic belief,” Redlawsk said. “I was surprised, however, that New Jersey overall didn’t think income equality was the bigger problem.”

Seventy-nine percent of Republicans believed too much government is the issue, according to the press release. Two-thirds of Democrats believe the greater problem is income inequality.

“It has been a general argument about how important income inequality is,” Redlawsk said. “There has been a question as to how to solve it — whether government intervention is really the answer.”

Overall, the population was evenly split with 48 percent concerned about income inequality and 48 percent about bigger government.

Both polls were conducted by telephone from February 22 to the 28 and included 842 New Jersey adults.

Redlawsk said Eagleton conducts six to seven statewide polls a year to understand public opinion and provide information for citizens.


By Erin Walsh

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