Pennsylvania’s Delegates and Alternate Delegates gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention believe the federal government is a positive force in helping people, and that the rights we enjoy as Americans are granted to us by government rather than natural rights bestowed by God. That is the picture that emerges from a survey of Delegates and Alternate Delegates conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research.
Pennsylvania’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention ranked as the top five issues confronting the nation as the economy, health care reform (Obamacare), unemployment, energy and the federal budget deficit. Ranked lowest on the list of concerns was illegal immigration, gay marriage, the war in Afghanistan, abortion, and tax cuts.
Delegates and Alternate Delegates participating in the Lincoln Institute survey believe the policies of the Obama Administration have made the United States more secure (88%). Eighty-three percent say the president’s handling of the War in Afghanistan is on the right track. But, Delegates/Alternate Delegates have little appetite for additional foreign military action. Eighty-three percent say the U.S. should not intervene militarily in Syria while 72% oppose military intervention to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Eighty-eight percent of the respondents say they believe the U.S. economy is on the right track. Eighty-three percent place the blame for the nation’s economic woes on congress, while President Bush is blamed by 81%. Another 70% fault corporate America for hindering the economic recovery while 33% blame investors.
When it comes to the Bush era tax rates (cuts) 41% say the rates should be temporarily extended for families earning under $250,000 per year while another 39% would make the cuts permanent for those families earning under that ceiling. Seventeen percent said the federal government should reinstate the pre-Bush era higher rates for all Americans. Seventy-five percent of the Delegates/Alternate Delegates polled said the Obama cuts in the payroll (Social Security) tax rate should be extended, while 24% thought the old rates should be allowed to go back into effect. There is strong opposition (84%) to cutting tax rates on Capital Gains. Thirty-four percent said current estate tax rates should remain in effect, while another 34% believe estate taxes should be increased. Twenty-three percent favor cutting the estate tax rate, while 9% support eliminating the death tax entirely. Fifty-four percent support lowering the personal income tax rates as a means of stimulating economic growth, while 46% oppose such a move.
To balance the federal budget, 90% of the Delegates/Alternate Delegates taking part in the Lincoln Institute survey said they favor a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts. Six percent favor only raising taxes, 4% favor only cutting spending. Seventy-nine percent said they support raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling, while 21% oppose.
The delegation is split on the issue of free trade agreements such as NAFTA or CAFTA. Fifty-three percent favor free trade agreements while 47% oppose such multi-national accords.
Overwhelmingly (94%) the Pennsylvania Delegation to the Democratic National Convention believes development of alternative fuels is the surest route to meeting America’s energy needs. Sixty-seven percent cited conservation as an important component of energy policy while 25% support more domestic oil drilling. The delegation also believes (92%) global warming is an accurate environmental assessment, while eight percent think the issue is overblown.
Sixty-one percent of the delegation supports term limits on Members of Congress with 38% strongly supporting such limits. Thirty-eight percent oppose the imposition of term limits. Delegates and Alternate Delegates take a dim view of the congressional practice of earmarking; or specific spending directed by Members of Congress. Sixty-eight percent say earmarks are wasteful spending, while 32% say that is an appropriate way to making spending decisions.
Delegates/Alternate Delegates are optimistic that Social Security will be around for future generations (65%), but that substantial changes will have to be made. Twenty-seven percent believe Social Security can survive without substantial changes, the balance think the system is headed for bankruptcy. One change the Delegates/Alternates are opposed to is allowing younger Americans to invest a portion of their Social Security funds in personal savings accounts outside the Social Security system. Seventy-seven percent stated their opposition to such a change.
On the issue of property taxes, 81% of the Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Democratic National Convention surveyed by the Lincoln Institute say the property tax-based system currently utilized by school districts, local and county governments to fund services is unfair and is not equitable to most segments of their community. Nineteen percent say the system is fair. Should property taxes be eliminated, 57% support replacing them with a combination of local sales and earned income taxes; 37% would support making the current sale tax more broad-based, but at the current rate; 30% would support a higher state sales tax rate while 17% back the idea of higher local earned income taxes.
In terms of the personal state income tax, 68% say the current tax rate is about right. Twenty percent say state income taxes are too low, while 14% say it is too high. Sixty-seven percent of the Delegates/Alternate Delegates believe state business tax rates are about right, while 20% say they are too low and 17% believe them to be too high. When it comes to economic development, 79% support a policy of having the state borrow money to help finance select business ventures, 21% think the state should cut taxes and regulations.
There is near unanimity in the delegation (97%) that Governor Tom Corbett’s cuts to K-12 public education have been too deep. School choice is not viewed as a solution to the state’s education problems as 78% of the Delegates/Alternate Delegates said they would oppose giving vouchers or grants to students who wish to attend a public school other than their own.
Pennsylvania’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention believes state spending from the general fund is either too low or about right. Fifty-three percent say general fund spending levels are too low, 29% say they are about right while 18% say state spending is too high. But, 53% say the current amount of state government debt is too much, while 41% say it is about right and 6% say the state’s debt levels are too low. Eighty-one percent would support an increase in the state gasoline tax as a way to help pay for infrastructure (roads and bridges) costs; 95% would support an increase in vehicle registration and/or driver license fees to help fund such improvements.
Despite the general perception that the Democratic Party is the party of organized labor, 54% of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention say they would support a Right to Work law, which means that a worker cannot be fired or kept from having a job for either joining or not joining a union, 45% are in opposition to such a law. But, 67% would oppose a law banning public school teachers from striking; the rest would support such a law. Fifty-four percent favor privatizing the state’s liquor store system, while 45% oppose such a move.
Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Democratic National Convention self-identify mostly as liberals, with 27% saying they are very liberal and 40% classifying themselves as somewhat liberal. Twenty-seven percent call themselves moderates, while 5% self-identify as conservatives.
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. conducted its survey of Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Democratic National Convention electronically from August 21, 2012 thru August 29, 2012. A total of 50 Delegates and Alternate Delegates participated in the poll. Complete numeric results are available at www.lincolninstitute.org.
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(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com)