Kansas Speaks finds some ambivalence: Respondents to FHSU Docking Institute's 3rd annual survey hold competing views on taxes

Kansans in 2011 generally prefer keeping income, sales and property taxes at current levels, and by percentages about the same as in 2010, but the percentage favoring tax increases for corporations and high income earners has been on the increase since 2009, according to results from the third annual Kansas Speaks survey by Fort Hays State University's Docking Institute of Public Affairs.

"Kansas has three primary revenue sources: income tax, sales tax and property tax," said the introduction to the question on tax policy. Respondents were then asked, "Thinking of the current Kansas economy, do you believe that each of the following taxes should be significantly increased, somewhat increased, remain the same, somewhat decreased, or significantly decreased?"

Respondents indicated a strong preference for keeping all three revenue sources at current rates, with percentages of 45 for sales and property taxes and 49 for income tax. The exception was a strong preference to decrease property taxes, which 45 percent of respondents want somewhat or significantly cut (51 percent favored cuts in 2010). On income taxes, 32 percent favor cuts; 30 percent want sales tax cuts. Among those who favor raising taxes, most favor increasing sales tax (25 percent), followed by income tax (19 percent in 2011). Only 10 percent favor increasing property taxes.

When asked about preferences for changes on taxation policy for various earner categories, respondents were most likely to favor increasing taxes on large corporations and top income earners, but a majority favor keeping current tax policies for the middle class and small businesses.

Tax increases for large corporations were favored by 63 percent of respondents (up from 54 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2009), and 58 percent favored tax increases for top income earners, which was up from 47 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2009.

The Docking Institute's Kansas Speaks findings are the result of a survey of 1,039 Kansas adults over the age of 18 who completed the survey by mail and by phone between June 21 and Sept. 2. The survey has a 3.04-percent margin of error.

The full report, Kansas Speaks 2011, is available in pdf form through a tab on the Docking Institute home page, www.fhsu.edu/docking/. It also includes appendices with breakdowns of results by political preference and education, among other factors.

"This is the third edition of Kansas Speaks and includes historical trend lines for our key indicators," said Dr. Gary Brinker, director of the Docking Institute. "We believe that Kansas Speaks provides citizens and policymakers with scientifically valuable information about what Kansans want from their government leaders."

The survey also asked about three recent hot-button issues: proof of citizenship for voting, elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission and repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

When asked if they support or oppose Kansas House Bill 2067, which requires persons to provide documented proof of citizenship when registering to vote and a photo ID when voting in 2013, 55.4 percent said that they "strongly support" the law, while another 13.3 percent said they "somewhat support" it. Only one-seventh (13.6 percent) said that they "strongly oppose" it. The very youngest and very oldest respondents are least likely to support the law.

When asked if they support or oppose the elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission, 27.4 percent of respondents supported the elimination, 32.1 percent were neutral, and 40.5 percent opposed the elimination. Republican respondents and those who considered themselves politically conservative are more likely to support eliminating the Kansas Arts Commission.

Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is supported by 46.9 percent of respondents, while 39 percent oppose repeal.

Other results from the 2011 Kansas Speaks survey:

-- More than half of the respondents (54.8 percent) in 2011 said they felt Kansas was either an "excellent" or "very good" place to live. That percentage was 58.5 in 2010 and 64.2 in 2009, the first year the Kansas Speaks survey was conducted. The percentage of people in 2011 who think Kansas is a "poor" or "very poor" place to live is 3 percent, a percentage that is essentially unchanged from both previous years.

-- On economic matters, 40.2 percent of respondents thought the Kansas economy was at least "good" while 24 percent said Kansas had a "poor" or "very poor" economy. Opinion in 2011 was not significantly different from that in 2010, but those who rate the economy as "very poor" went from 3 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2011.

-- Kansans are also still concerned that economic conditions pose a threat to them or their families' welfare. In 2011, 71 percent of respondents are either "very concerned" or "moderately concerned" that the Kansas economy will seriously threaten their or their families’ welfare, slightly increasing from 68 percent in 2010. Overall, only 10 percent are "not concerned" about an economic threat, about 1 percentage point less than last year.

-- About 38 percent of respondents in 2011 are "moderately" or "very satisfied" with the efforts of the Kansas Democratic Party and the Kansas Republican Party to improve the state economy. These results are similar to those in 2010.

-- Respondents’ ratings of Kansas state government in 2011 are not significantly different from those in 2010. In 2011, 8 percent (same as in 2010) rate state government as "very good" or "excellent," while 29 percent rate it as "poor" or "very poor." In 2010, the poor-very poor rating was 27 percent, up from 17 in 2009.

-- In 2011, respondents’ satisfaction with the Kansas Legislature, as well as their own state senators and representatives, increased slightly from 2010 (to 39 percent from 37 moderately or very satisfied), while satisfaction with the governor and their U.S. Congressmen decreased (to 47 moderately-very satisfied from 53 for governor and to 47 from 49 for congressmen).

-- Respondents’ satisfaction with the performance of U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts is about the same. A little over half of respondents are "very" or "moderately satisfied" with each.
-- In 2011, over half of respondents (51.6 percent) favor decreasing state spending, while only 16.4 percent favor increasing spending. Respondents’ opinions in 2011 are very similar to those in 2010. Republican respondents and those who are politically conservative are less likely to say that Kansas government spending should be increased in 2011.

-- As in 2009 and 2010, the energy source that respondents in 2011 are most likely to feel is "extremely important" for Kansas to devote resources to is wind energy, followed by oil and coal, both of which increased significantly from 2010. Support for the development of nuclear energy is the lowest of the various energy sources. Respondents with higher levels of education are more likely to think it is not important to develop coal and oil.

-- Republican respondents and those who considered themselves politically conservative are more likely to say it is "extremely important" or "important" for Kansas to devote resources to the development of coal, oil and nuclear energy in 2011. Democratic respondents and those who considered themselves politically liberal are more likely to say it is "extremely important" or "important" for Kansas to devote resources to the development of wind energy.

-- The percentages of respondents who "strongly agree" or "agree" that the economic benefits of coal and oil production outweigh concerns about the impact on the environment have been increasing since 2009, moving from the low 50s in 2009 to the 60s in 2011.

-- When asked about the current levels of state funding for education, a majority of respondents supported increased funding for K-12 (58 percent) and favored keeping funding for higher education at current levels (51.4 percent). Increased funding for state colleges and universities is supported by 35 percent.

-- When asked if they support or oppose a state law that requires women to purchase additional coverage for abortion procedures, 43.5 percent of respondents supported the law, while 36.6 percent opposed it. As might be expected, support for this measure was highly divided along lines of political party and ideology.

-- When asked about their levels of pride as a citizen, pride in being a citizen of the United States is, by far, the strongest, with almost 79 percent of respondents saying they are "very proud." Only 40 percent are "very proud" to be a citizen of the global society. About 80 percent of respondents are either "proud" or "very proud" to be a citizen of Kansas, which is similar to levels of pride in being citizens of their local communities.

-- FOX News was picked as the most trusted (19 percent) and least trusted (20 percent) television news source. Among non-TV media sources, local newspaper (19 percent) is the most trusted media source, while internet websites are the least trusted.

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