Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

New NPI poll finds Washingtonians strongly support a capital gains tax on the wealthy

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.