New poll shows strong opposition to income tax in any form

Feb 1, 2018

SEATTLE— A new poll of Washington voters reveals opposition to a state income tax in any form remains strong.  In the poll, commissioned by Washington Policy Center (WPC), sixty-eight percent said they would oppose a statewide income tax proposal with fifty-seven percent “definitely opposed” and eleven percent “somewhat opposed.”

The poll of 600 Washington voters also revealed strong opposition to an income tax on capital gains.  Sixty-two percent of respondents indicated they would oppose a capital gains tax with forty-nine percent of those respondents “definitely opposed.” Only thirty-three percent indicated some level of support for a capital gains tax. The remainder said they did not know whether they would support it or not.

“Washington residents have said no to an income tax ten straight times at the ballot and they’re saying no again,” said Jason Mercier, Director of the Center for Government Reform at WPC. “Anyone trying to convince voters they need one has a steep hill to climb.”

Fifty-four percent of respondents did not support any new sources of taxing revenue for Washington state with forty-three percent “definitely” opposed.  Opposition to new taxes grew when respondents were informed that state revenue has grown by more than $10 billion over the past few years.

“Washingtonians are united in wanting the state to operate within current growing revenue,” said Mercier. “Given the revenue growth this state has enjoyed, that shouldn’t be a difficult task.”

The statewide poll of 600 Washington voters was conducted by Enviroissues and took place in January of 2018. Thirty-six percent of respondents self-identified as Democrats, 20 percent as Republicans, and thirty-six percent as Independent. The results of the WPC poll are accurate at the 95 percent confidence level plus or minus 4 percentage points among the 1.3 million likely voters in Washington who have cast a ballot in at least three of the last four general or primary elections.  

For your convenience, poll questions are provided below:

In summer 2017, the Seattle City Council approved the first local income tax in the state. After the tax passed, it was then declared illegal by a judge. While an income tax has not been proposed statewide, we are curious what you think about this approach. (PAUSE)

Proponents of a state income tax say our current reliance on sales taxes is regressive and an income tax could be used for lowering other taxes, education, homelessness or other public needs. (PAUSE) Opponents say an income tax is unconstitutional, not needed given existing growth in state tax revenues, and would diminish our state’s competitive advantage.

If an income tax was proposed statewide, would you support or oppose it? (GET ANSWER, THEN ASK): Would you definitely (support/oppose) it or somewhat (support/oppose) it?

                                                Definitely support------------------------------- 16%

                                                Somewhat support------------------------------ 13%

                                                Somewhat oppose------------------------------- 11%

                                                Definitely oppose------------------------------- 57%

                                                (DON’T READ) DK---------------------------- 4%

[NOTE: The following question was formulated while Gov. Inslee was still indicating he would again propose a capital gains tax. He did not end up doing so this year. However, a capital gains tax (HB 2967) has been introduced this year in the Legislature.] Governor Jay Inslee says he will again propose a capital gains tax to provide funding for education. There is debate about whether a capital gains tax, which is a tax on your investment returns such as stock investments and sales on your home, is allowed in Washington. Some people think it is allowable while others say it is an unconstitutional form of an income tax.

If a capital gains tax was proposed by the Governor or legislature, would you support or oppose it?  

(GET ANSWER, THEN ASK): Would you definitely (support/oppose) it or somewhat (support/oppose) it?

                                                Definitely support------------------------------- 19%

                                                Somewhat support------------------------------ 14%

                                                Somewhat oppose------------------------------- 13%

                                                Definitely oppose------------------------------- 49%

                                                (DON’T READ) DK---------------------------- 7%

And do you think Washington state needs to increase taxes and/or find new sources of taxing revenue? (GET ANSWER, THEN ASK): Is that definitely (yes/no) or probably (yes/no)?

                                                Definitely yes------------------- 23% (ASK NEXT)

                                                Somewhat yes------------------ 15% (ASK NEXT)

                                                Somewhat no------------------------------------ 11% (SKIP NEXT)

                                                Definitely no------------------------------------- 43% (SKIP NEXT)

                                                (DON’T READ) DK---------------------------- 8%

Washington state revenue has grown more than $10 billion dollars over the last few years.  Knowing this, do you still believe Washington state needs to increase taxes? (GET ANSWER, THEN ASK): Is that definitely (yes/no) or probably (yes/no)? (N=225)

                                                Definitely yes------------------------------------ 39%

                                                Somewhat yes----------------------------------- 26%

                                                Somewhat no------------------------------------- 8%

                                                Definitely no------------------------------------- 21%

                                                (DON’T READ) DK---------------------------- 5%


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