NPI Research Bulletin
NPI Research Bulletin

A clear major­i­ty of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sup­port tax­ing the cap­i­tal gains of wealthy indi­vid­u­als to help pay for pub­lic schools, col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, accord­ing to a new sur­vey con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI.

Our recent annu­al research poll found 55% of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans like­ly to vote in the Novem­ber 2015 gen­er­al elec­tion sup­port a cap­i­tal gains tax, with just 42% of like­ly vot­ers opposed. Those vot­ers who back a cap­i­tal gains tax are very enthu­si­as­tic about the idea — 43% of respon­dents said they “strong­ly sup­port” it.

As Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are focus­ing their atten­tion on the edu­ca­tion fund­ing cri­sis, this poll makes it crys­tal clear that they want to see a cap­i­tal gains tax on wealthy indi­vid­u­als be adopt­ed as part of the solu­tion to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary deci­sion. NPI’s research shows Gov­er­nor Inslee and the Leg­is­la­ture have a pop­u­lar man­date to adopt a cap­i­tal gains tax on wealthy indi­vid­u­als in order to ensure our chil­dren have the high qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion that is their right under Arti­cle IX of the Wash­ing­ton State Constitution.

As this was a poll of like­ly 2015 vot­ers, we believe it actu­al­ly under­states the true lev­el of sup­port for a cap­i­tal gains tax among next year’s elec­torate, which is pro­ject­ed to be sub­stan­tial­ly larg­er than this year’s.

(Note that statewide turnout in the 2011 gen­er­al elec­tion four years ago was 52.95%; in the 2012 gen­er­al elec­tion, it rose to 81.25%.)

We know from look­ing at past opin­ion research and elec­tion results that Demo­c­ra­t­ic, pro­gres­sive vot­ers are most like­ly to vote in pres­i­den­tial years. And they are the peo­ple who are most sup­port­ive of pro­gres­sive tax reform.

In 2012, Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling con­duct­ed repeat­ed sur­veys in the Ever­green State to gauge how Wash­ing­ton vot­ers felt about the pres­i­den­tial race and the guber­na­to­r­i­al race between Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna.

In its Feb­ru­ary 2012 and Novem­ber 2012 sur­veys of like­ly vot­ers, 36% of respon­dents self-iden­ti­fied as Democ­rats. How­ev­er, in NPI’s poll, which sur­veyed like­ly 2015 vot­ers, only 31% of respon­dents iden­ti­fied as Democrats.

The spe­cif­ic lan­guage of NPI’s cap­i­tal gains tax ques­tion was as follows:

Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose tax­ing the cap­i­tal gains of wealthy indi­vid­u­als to help pay for pub­lic schools, col­leges and universities?”

These were the answers:

  • Sup­port: 55%
    • 43% “strong­ly sup­port” a cap­i­tal gains tax
    • 12% “some­what sup­port” a cap­i­tal gains tax
  • Oppose: 42%
    • 12% “some­what oppose” a cap­i­tal gains tax
    • 30% “strong­ly oppose” a cap­i­tal gains tax
  • 2% answered “not sure” 

These respons­es indi­cate that vot­ers have large­ly made up their minds on the ques­tion of whether Wash­ing­ton ought to have a cap­i­tal gains tax.

Vot­ers are clear­ly ready for pro­gres­sive tax reform, even if Tim Eyman and his mil­i­tant Repub­li­can friends in the Leg­is­la­ture aren’t.

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI from Sep­tem­ber 18th to 21st, 2015, and sur­veyed 613 Wash­ing­ton vot­ers like­ly to cast bal­lots in the Novem­ber 2015 gen­er­al elec­tion. The results have a mar­gin of sam­pling error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

NPI will release addi­tion­al results from the poll next week.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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