New Poll: Pa. Voters Overwhelming Support Jobs Over New Energy Taxes

When [Pennsylvania] voters are given a choice between a [new energy] tax and jobs, they choose jobs.” This was a key finding – among others – of a newly released public opinion survey, as reported by the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

These findings – which demonstrate broad bipartisan support for job-creating natural gas development in Pennsylvania – are reflected in other recent polls, as the Patriot-News notes:

  • 58% of Pa. voters support drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale; there is support among all partisan, gender and age groups. (Quinnipiac University, 6/6/14)
  • 94% of Pa. voters say that increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources could lead to more jobs in the U.S.; 90% say increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources could help stimulate the economy. (Nielsen, 4/14)
  • 64% of Pa. voters have strongly favorable/favorable view of shale industry. (Franklin & Marshall, 1/30/14)

Here are key excerpts from the Patriot-News’ story on the new poll:

Lawmakers eyeing an extraction tax on natural gas drillers to help plug a nearly $2 billion hole in next year’s budget had best take notice: they may not have the support of the voters back home. … The poll was conducted over the weekend, from June 6-8, by Boston-based Anderson & Robbins Research, which polls exclusively for Democratic candidates and corporate clients. The poll was commissioned by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

When asked if they would “support raising taxes on Pennsylvania natural gas producers to pay for public employee pensions,” 57 percent of likely voters said no.

The poll results also indicate that when voters are given a choice between a tax and jobs, they choose jobs.

When asked if they would “support raising taxes on Pennsylvania natural gas producers even if it results in jobs leaving the state and Pennsylvania residents losing their jobs,” 58 percent of likely voters said no.

When asked “If you had to choose between creating new jobs in the natural gas industry for Pennsylvania residents or higher taxes and fees on natural gas producers to fund the state budget, which would you choose?,” 61 percent of likely voters chose “creating new jobs.”

But the poll response could have more far-reaching political implications as well.

That 61 percent of voters who chose jobs over a tax to fund the budget includes a majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents: 79 percent of Republican respondents, 54 percent of Democratic respondents and 55 percent of Independent respondents.

A majority of voters of all political stripes “want to see the natural gas industry grow,”said Anderson. That result also correlates with previous polls.

One of the most interesting questions in the poll asked voters if they thought existing taxes on gas drillers were too high, too low or about right. The results were all over the map: 25 percent said taxes were too high, 36 percent said taxes were too low, 23 percent said “about right” and 16 percent weren’t sure.

Anderson said, “You’re likely to get similar results if you plugged any industry into that question.” That means on the one hand that “most voters have better things to worry about,” he said, but it also indicates “There’s clearly not an existing belief among a majority of Pennsylvania voters that taxes are too low.” Anderson said, There is not a grass-roots uprising that says raise taxes on drillers.”

And StateImpact Pennsylvania reports that “the survey shows most voters (57 percent) would not support a tax if the revenue generated would pay for public employee pensions or if it resulted in Pennsylvanians losing jobs (58 percent).” This from their story:

MSC president David Spigelmyer criticized what he called “misguided and short-sighted” policies that would increase taxes and fees and threaten the industry’s future in Pennsylvania. “This research further demonstrates that bad policy is bad politics,” Spigelmyer said.