This is an archived article.

May 24, 2010

Voters dissatisfied with Congress and state Legislature but willing to accept state income tax

A new University of Washington survey shows growing dissatisfaction with both state and national government. At the same time, the survey shows a majority of registered Washington voters in favor of a state income tax.

Conducted May 3-23, the Washington Poll found that 43 percent of voters disapproved of the state Legislature’s performance, 36 percent approved. Voters were even more unhappy with the performance of Congress: 60 percent disapproved, 30 percent approved.

Asked about the state income tax initiative, 58 percent of voters were in favor, 30 percent opposed. The measure would reduce property taxes by 20 percent, lower certain business and occupation taxes and tax individuals earning more than $200,000 per year or households earning more than $400,000.

The tax would not affected 96 percent of Washington residents; indeed, they’d see their property taxes reduced, said Matt Barreto, an associate professor of political science who leads the Washington Poll, a non-partisan research project at the UW.

Voters surveyed for the poll expressed growing concern about jobs and the economy: 62 percent named them the top issue facing the U.S.

In October, voters named jobs and the economy the top issue as well, but the percentage was half: 31 percent.

Also in the new survey, 41 percent of voters indicated “things here in Washington state are generally going in the right direction,” whereas 44 percent said no, they’re “seriously on the wrong track.” In October, by comparison, 44 percent said “right direction” compared with 38 percent who said “wrong track.”

“Public opinion in Washington state reflects the changing mood nationally. People are frustrated with their government,” Barreto said. “At both the state and national level, we are picking up a lot of negative attitudes towards government.”

Despite voter gloom, 51 percent of voters approved of U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) compared to 34 percent who didn’t.

Asked their intentions, 42 percent said they would vote for Murray if the opponent were “a Republican.” Asked the same question with Dino Rossi as the Republican, 44 percent said they’d choose Murray, 40 percent said Rossi. The rest were undecided.

An initiative that would allow private instead of state distribution of liquor drew favorable response among those surveyed: 53 percent approved, 37 percent disapproved.

Supporters of the income tax and liquor initiatives are still collecting signatures; the measures are not yet on the November ballot.

The survey also asked voters their opinions regarding:

• Illegal immigration

• Same-sex marriage

• Health reform passed by Congress in March

For information on those issues as well as more detail on the other issues, go to the Washington Poll: http://www.washingtonpoll.org .

Conducted by telephone, the poll reached 1,250 registered voters. Funds for the survey came from research budgets at the UW. The poll sampling error margin is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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For additional information, contact Barreto at 206-616-3584 or 909-489-2955 or mbarreto@uw.edu .