Elon Poll: N.C. residents show support for sales tax hike

When it comes to closing a nearly $3 billion state budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, more than 6 in 10 North Carolinians support an increase in the sales tax by 1 cent per dollar spent, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

More than half of respondents – 56 percent – said they would oppose the elimination of state jobs to address the gap.

The poll, conducted Nov. 15-18, 2010, surveyed 520 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones.

North Carolinians were asked a series of questions about the main areas of the state budget to gauge whether the state was allocating too much, the right amount, or too little on funding across these state service areas.

A majority of respondents believed that too little money from the budget is directed toward local community colleges in North Carolina. Forty-three percent believe too little is spent on K-12 education, and 33 percent said too little is spent on higher education. Respondents were satisfied with levels of spending for justice and public safety, and for transportation.

The state service areas with corresponding opinions about funding are:

Higher Education
Too Little: 32.5
The Right Amount: 40.6
Too Much: 16.1

Justice and Public Safety
Too Little: 24.2
The Right Amount: 55.5
Too Much: 12.1

Kindergarten through 12th Grade Education
Too Little: 43.1
The Right Amount: 39.2
Too Much: 11.0

Health & Human Services
Too Little: 27.4
The Right Amount: 43.2
Too Much: 22.3

Community Colleges
Too Little: 55.4
The Right Amount: 33.2
Too Much: 5.3

Transportation
Too Little: 17.5
The Right Amount: 54.5
Too Much: 21.6

Pork Barrel Spending and Earmark Provisions

Poll respondents offered mixed signals on questions related to “pork barrel spending” and earmarks. Sixty percent of North Carolinians oppose government spending if it specifically benefits only their community. Conversely, 59 percent support more government spending to create jobs in their community.

Sixty-three percent of North Carolinians oppose members of Congress receiving money for projects in their local districts. Given the current discussion in Congress about ending earmarks, 50 percent of those citizens responding did not know about, or had not given much thought to, the issue of earmarks.

When asked whether Congressional Democrats or Republicans are more responsible for pork barrel spending, 34 percent of respondents blamed both parties, while Democrats in Congress and Republicans in Congress both receive 24 percent of the blame respectively.

North Carolina State Budget Situation

When told of the state budget shortfall and asked on how they would address it, only 15 percent of respondents were unwilling to increase existing taxes, but a majority of North Carolinians oppose the idea of creating new taxes where none currently exist.

If faced with a tax increase, half the respondents would prefer to increase the sales tax. Twelve percent would prefer an increase in property tax, while 16 percent would prefer an increase in the income tax.

In a separate question, the poll found 62 percent of citizens would support an increase in the sales tax by one cent on every dollar spent.

“These results indicate that North Carolinians are cognizant of the situation facing the state and, apparently in lieu of making things worse for others, are willing to shoulder their share of the budget burden,” said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll.

Citizens are also opposed (51 percent) to equal cuts across state programs, as well as eliminating current state employee jobs (56 percent).