Poll shows strong support for tax limits in Maine

Posted May 29, 2009, at 10:03 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Mainers are showing strong support for two tax-related initiatives that will appear on the state’s referendum ballot in November, according to an independent poll released Friday.

The tracking survey by the Portland market research firm Critical Insights found that 60 percent of those surveyed expressed support for a proposal that would require voter approval of state and local tax increases and limit growth in government spending. The poll found 36 percent opposed and 4 percent who didn’t know or refused to answer.

On an initiative to cut auto excise taxes, the breakdown was 67 percent in favor, 27 percent opposed and 6 percent who didn’t know or refused to answer.

MaryEllen FitzGerald, president of Critical Insights, said Mainers are linking the ballot initiatives with the recession and high unemployment.

“We’re seeing voter exhaustion with high taxes,” she said. “People are correlating high taxes with their economic concerns and with the perception that the business climate in the state is not conducive to creating new jobs.”

The poll was based on 601 phone interviews from May 14 to May 20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Those polled rated the economy as the most important issue facing Maine today, followed by unemployment. But 46 percent also said they expect the economy will improve in the year ahead, with 27 percent saying it will be about the same and 24 percent saying it will get worse.

Gov. John Baldacci’s disapproval rating continued its climb and rose above 50 percent for the first time since he took office in 2003, according to the results.

Part of the reason for the disapproval rating comes from being governor in a recession, FitzGerald said. People also feel like they’ve seen few changes during his tenure on issues that are important to them, she said.

“People for whom health care is their major issue are much more likely to approve of his job performance than people who are most concerned about the economy and taxes,” she said.

David Farmer, spokesman for the governor, said 54 percent of people surveyed in a different poll in April gave the governor an excellent or good job performance rating, while 43 percent rated his performance as poor or very poor. Public opinion polls can fluctuate daily, he said, particularly when the Legislature is in session and the state budget is being slashed.

“The true judge of any governor should be the quality of initiatives and legislation that is getting through,” he said.

Participants were not asked about a law passed by the Legislature this month allowing same-sex marriage. That’s because the language of a proposed veto referendum had yet to be drafted at the time of the survey, FitzGerald said. Opponents of the law are gathering signatures in an effort to place a question on the November ballot seeking to overturn the law.

On the Net: www.criticalinsights.com

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