Poll Shows Ohioans Favor Spending Restraint, Oppose Tax Increases

Published May 1, 2004

Ohio citizens believe the state is going in the wrong direction, and economic concerns trump other issues, according to poll results released on February 25 by the Columbus-based Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. The poll found strong support among registered voters for solving future budget woes by cutting state spending, not raising taxes.

“The economy remains the dominant issue for elected officials in Ohio,” observed Sam Staley, president of The Buckeye Institute and principal author of the report. “But Ohioans recognize the state’s approach to state spending and tax reform may be linked to future economic progress.”

The poll, conducted by the internationally recognized firm The Tarrance Group, found strong support for particular types of tax reforms, including shifting revenues to user fees and moving toward a flat-rate income tax. Among the poll’s other findings:

  • 86 percent of poll respondents believe lawmakers should focus on spending restraint rather than increasing taxes to address future budget deficits.
  • 73 percent understand tax rates influence the decisions of wealthy families and businesses to stay in or leave Ohio.
  • 96 percent understand state taxes influence the decisions of businesses to stay in Ohio.
  • 78 percent would support a proposal to limit state spending growth to the inflation rate.
  • 60 percent would support reforms that simplify Ohio’s income tax system by moving toward one rate for all taxpayers.

The poll is noteworthy because it is among the first publicly released surveys aimed at understanding how Ohio citizens feel about particular tax reforms and fiscal policy. “As our elected officials come to grips with Ohio’s ever-pressing budget and tax reform issues,” Staley said, “the results of this poll will serve as an important benchmark.

“This study examines fiscal policy reform from a political perspective,” noted Staley. “The Buckeye Institute has published numerous studies on tax reform, but many of these analyses have relied on academic and statistical analysis. They have not given significant attention to the political environment in which tax reforms would be implemented. This analysis seeks to fill the gap.”

While the recession may have influenced the results, “Ohioans were specific about the nature of the problems faced by the State,” the report said. “Ohioans ranked jobs, unemployment, and taxes among their top worries–not the stock market, foreign affairs, welfare, terrorism, or even health care.”

The poll was conducted November 9-10, 2003 by The Tarrance Group, who surveyed 604 registered voters. Partner Brian Tringali and Senior Research Analyst Brian Nienaber advised The Buckeye Institute on the design, implementation, and analysis of the poll results.

“Ohio’s continuing struggle to balance its budget suggests the need for substantial fiscal policy reform,” noted Staley in the report. “State policymakers need to focus their efforts on two important and complementary strategies: spending restraint and fundamental tax reform.

“Significant reform in both of these areas would help rationalize state government and provide a fiscal policy framework that would significantly enhance economic growth and restore Ohio’s economic competitiveness,” Staley concluded.

Joshua Hall is director of research for The Buckeye Institute. His email address is [email protected].

For more information …

The full text of the report, “New Directions for Fiscal Policy in Ohio: Citizen Attitudes Toward Spending and Taxation,” is available on The Buckeye Institute’s Web site at http://www.buckeyeinstitute.org, or by calling 614/224-4422. Tell ’em Budget & Tax News sent you!