Elon University Poll: Land transfer taxes lack support, stem cell use gets public approval

Sixty-seven percent of North Carolinians oppose proposals for land transfer taxes as a way for local governments to raise money, according to results from the latest Elon University Poll, which comes as voters in more than a dozen counties across the state consider such a measure on ballots this fall.

The poll, conducted Sept. 24-27 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 664 North Carolina residents. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent. The sample is of the population in general and does not restrict respondents by their voter eligibility or their likelihood of voting in an election.

Land transfer taxes were described as money that is raised for local governments when someone sells property. Opposition weakened to 43 percent when respondents were asked if they would support a land transfer tax if revenue went to education.

On the issue of impact fees, defined as the money that local governments would collect for each new development or house built in a county to offset the costs to the county caused by the development, just under half of respondents (47 percent) said they support or strongly support the idea.

“With these results, the prospects for passing a transfer tax in North Carolina counties doesn’t look promising as citizens indicate that local referenda on the transfer tax will face an uphill battle,” said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll. “While it may pass in some counties due to purely local circumstances, citizens across the state are adamantly against this tax.”

Education was named the top issue in the state, with slightly more than 20 percent of respondents indicating that to be the most important issue facing the state. The most important issues identified in the poll results were the following:

* Elementary & secondary education: 20.1 percent
* Economy: 13.8 percent
* Immigration: 8.5 percent
* Public assistance (Medicaid/Medicare): 5.7 percent
* Taxes: 5.2 percent
* War in Iraq: 4.5 percent
* Environment & energy: 4.5 percent
* Health Care: 4.2 percent
* Traffic & road construction: 4.1 percent
* Economic development: 2.3 percent
* Crime & drugs: 2.1 percent
* Family values & morals: 1.6 percent
* Gas prices: 1 percent
* Other: 11.4 percent
* Don’t know: 11.1 percent

The poll measured attitudes on several public policy issues. Respondents also indicated support for medial research that uses stem cells from human embryos (56 percent) and support using public funding for stem cell research (54 percent).

“Generally, such support in a conservative state like North Carolina for a value-based issue like embryonic stem cell research is a bit surprising,” Bacot said. “Yet, assessing this issue more closely and recognizing the prominence of the medical research community in this state, it should not be so surprising to see such widespread support for both medical research and public funding of such research among citizens in this state.”

Slightly more than two-thirds of North Carolinians – 68 percent – support a statewide law that would ban smoking in all public places, including public buildings, offices, bars and restaurants. Nearly the same number of poll respondents (67 percent) would also favor local governments making the decision on whether to ban smoking in public places.

While a majority of respondents indicated support for legislation that would ban smoking in public places, in assessing who is responsible for the regulation of smoking, 62 percent of citizens said the decision should be left to business owners.

“Citizens still seem torn between regulating business in the best interest of their health,” Bacot said. “This is a classic individual interest versus public interest issue as, on the one hand, citizens support by wide margins laws banning smoking in public places, but, on the other hand and by similar opinion margins, they think that such decisions should remain that of the individual business owner.

“Add into this issue debate the history of tobacco in North Carolina, and you have an incredibly complex issue to deal with that will prove quite challenging to resolve.”

The poll also asked respondent about illegal immigration and impact fees for counties. Fifty-three percent of respondents said the undocumented immigration of Hispanics or Latinos has been bad for North Carolina. More than two-third of respondents – 68 percent – disagreed with a proposal that would allow immigrants to stay in North Carolina as long as they have a job.