Poll: Two most popular things in Nevada are margin tax and Gov. Sunny

The margin tax is a huge favorite among voters, the ballot question to remove mining taxation from the Constitution is not far behind and Gov. Brian Sandoval is a juggernaut heading into re-election.

Those are the findings of a poll conducted late last month, with a large sample, by a respected Democratic pollster for the Nevada State Education Association, which is pushing the new tax on business.

Before going into detail, let me head off the naysayers sure to bleat because of who paid for the survey and who did it. Harstad Strategic Research, which conducted the poll of 819 Nevada voters from Sept. 18-24 (MOE=3.4 percent), is well known in Democratic circles; Paul Harstad was on the presidential team and helped victorious U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester last cycle. He is new to Nevada, but the poll looks solid – and I have seen all of it.

Having said that, as you peruse these results, also know that Harstad has the partisan split almost even (41-40, Ds) while Democrats have a 7 percentage point edge. That’s even better news for the teachers, although that may actually be what the electorate looks like in an off year as the GOP always outperforms Democrats.

To the numbers:

A gigantic margin: Unlike the retailers, the teachers asked the margin tax horse race question and in a straightforward fashion, finding that 61 percent of voters back the idea while only 34 percent are against it. With a likely voter screen, it is still 57-38.

Here’s how it was asked:

I would like to read you a measure that may appear on the Nevada ballot in 2014 called the Nevada Education Initiative.

This measure would establish a two percent tax on business revenue – called a business margins tax. Only companies that have at least a million dollars in revenue will pay the tax. Businesses can deduct either the costs of goods sold or employee salaries and wages.

All funds from this tax would be dedicated to Nevada’s kindergarten-through-12th grade public schools. The estimated fiscal impact is 800 million dollars in revenue generated each year.

If the election were today, would definitely vote FOR this measure, probably vote FOR it, probably vote AGAINST it, or definitely vote AGAINST it?

Quibble if you will, but that is pretty straightforward.

And it is popular across nearly all demographics, with Latinos (76) super-enthused. Even 41 percent of Republicans support the concept. And get this: The margin tax is popular in the three contested state Senate districts: 61-34 in Barbara Cegavske’s, 56-40 in Justin Jones's and – danger Will Robinson! – 66-30 in margin tax hater Michael Roberson’s.

Yes, it’s early. Yes, not one dime has been spent talking about the devastating wrecking ball this would swing through the economy. Yes, the campaign will matter.

But consider this the baseline, folks, and realize that this demonstrably potent support means an array of foes could spend a fortune to defeat it and still lose.

Oh, and note to Democratic legislative wimps: Time to get on board? The poll shows by 52-31, a candidate who backs the tax would be more likely to gain a voter’s support.  If the party were looking for a turnout driver, this may be it.

By the way, Nevadans have quite negative feelings about the education system, which may amplify their affinity for that tax. Only 19 percent give the public schools an A or B, while 39 percent give it a C, 19 percent a D and 18 percent a failing grade. That would presumably help the tax advocates. And 54 percent say funding should be increased with a tax on business while 77 percent think it is either somewhat, fairy or very likely the quality of schools would be enhanced by more funding.

Mining mining for dollars: SJR 15, the move to remove mining from the state Constitution, is ahead 54-31 in the poll. This is not that surprising, but the popularity with independents (56-28) should worry Mining, Inc. Even Republicans are for it, 46-39, before the THIS IS THE APOCALYPSE campaign from the Barrick/Newmont axis of evil begins.

Here’s the regional breakdown: Clark (59-28), Washoe (45-36) and the rurals – get ready for this – 44-40. 

Here’s how the question was asked:

I would like to read you a measure that may appear on the Nevada ballot next year.

The measure would remove special tax protections that exist for mining companies and allow the legislature to modify the mining tax.

If the election were today, would definitely vote FOR this measure, probably vote FOR it, probably vote AGAINST it, or definitely vote AGAINST it?

Be against this at your peril, candidates. Or ask for cover from mining, tout de suite!

Sunny days are here to stay: Gov. Brian Sandoval has almost a – wait for it – 70 percent approval rating. (Sorry, state Democratic Party.) His job approval is 68-24.

The crosstabs are astounding: Republicans love him (83-13), independents like him a lot (67-22) and even a majority of Democrats (53-36) are sweet on the sunny one. When voters are asked if they have positive or negative feelings about Gov. Sunny, he has a sparkling 3-to-1 ratio (45-15).

So it’s no surprise that Sandoval has a 23-percentage point lead over Clark County Commissioner Stave Sisolak, who may run against him. Sisolak is unknown (56 percent didn’t recognize his name and 19 percent are neutral). Those who know him have a 17-7 favorable/unfavorable feeling about him, but that doesn’t tell you much.

But what these numbers do tell you are that Sisolak – or any Democrat – has very little chance to be competitive with Sandoval, barring anything unforeseen. Next case....

Miscellany: The poll also found that almost half of Nevadans (45 percent) believe the economy is getting better while 24 percent think it is stabilizing. The right track/wrong track, which had been awful for years, is now at 43-45, which is merely not so good.

The generic ballot test for the Legislature is split: 44 percent say they would vote for a Republican and 41 percent said they would back a Democrat.

I never put much stock in those, and it basically mirrors the demographics of the survey.

But this number should worry all lawmakers. Twenty-three percent of folks have a positive view of the Legislature and 31 percent have a negative view. The rest are neutral or don’t know.

Not Congress-like. But not good, and the Gang of 63 did it to themselves.

So as they hide on the popular margin tax and see how they have helped boost Gov. Sunny’s job approval, what can the Democrats do for an encore? Latch onto the tax, perhaps, as a way to offset the GOP advantages in a midterm election?

Maybe.

(Image from credithelp)