Gov. Rendell continues to push for higher taxes and fees for transportation, this time by commissioning a poll — paid for with campaign funds (which are legally only to be used to influence an election) but released by the Governor’s office — showing voters love his plan.
After letting the administration know that “releasing a poll” requires you to release a poll, not just tell people you have one, Scott Detrow got the actual language used. This is a great case study of how to write leading poll questions.
The first leading question:
If you knew that an increase in spending on roads, bridges and highways could be paid for by closing tax loopholes on the oil companies operating in Pennsylvania – and that the oil companies would be forbidden by law from passing the tax increase on to motorists, would that make you…..support additional spending on the state’s roads, bridges and highways?
Rendell says the results indicate that voters support his new oil companies profits tax. But the poll didn’t ask about a new tax, only “closing tax loopholes.” And it leads respondents by implying there will be no negative effect on them, even though few analysts believe the state can prevent an increase from being passed on at the pump, and it could be passed on in other ways.
The second leading question:
Pennsylvania vehicle fees have not been raised in over a decade. If you knew that an increase in spending on roads, bridges and highways could be paid for entirely by increasing fees on drivers licenses and car registration just by the rate of inflation, would that make you …. support additional spending on the state’s roads, bridges and highways?
Not quite as misleading as the first (which is why it received less support), but it certainly attempts to make the fee increases seem minimal. If the question had asked, “increasing fees on drivers licenses by 10%, car registration by 25%, and inspection stickers by 100%“, it might yield a different result.
As I point out in a forthcoming commentary, Gov. Rendell could take the $600 million in new bonds for pet projects like the Specter Library and use that money for road and bridge repairs. What if, instead, he polled voters on their support of higher taxes for those pork projects?