According to a subsample of a recent 20/20 Insight poll commissioned by Blogging While Blue, a majority of voters in metro Atlanta support a dedicated sales tax to fund smaller classes and more pay for teachers. The survey of 595 metro Atlanta voters gauged their views on issues from education and transportation to immigration. The poll revealed that 53% of the respondents would support increasing the sales tax for education, 42% would oppose it, and 6% would be undecided (see crosstabs and methodology below). It seems that leaders who have called for an increase in the state sales tax as a way to raise revenue and stop cuts to public education in Georgia have public support if specific uses for the increased funding are identified.
Recently, public education has been a major news story in metro Atlanta and newly elected Governor Nathan Deal has obviously had education on his mind as he has talked about limiting the widely successful HOPE scholarship program and cutting state funding to education to balance the state budget. Media coverage of the CRCT testing and governance issues of Atlanta Public schools, problems and mismanagement at DeKalb County schools, and teacher furloughs have dominated the local news. The survey results seem to show that good governance and student performance are keys to voters’ approval of their school systems. Some 54% of Cobb and Gwinnett voters have a favorable opinion of their school system where governance and student achievement is generally well regarded, while only 13% of DeKalb and 18% of Fulton voters have a favorable opinion of their school system where school board infighting has been widely reported, and student achievement has been questioned.
Even with low favorable results in Fulton and DeKalb, voters are still more likely to support an education sales tax than voters in Cobb and Gwinnett counties. Voters in Cobb and Gwinnett approve of a dedicated sales tax for education by a slim majority, while voters in Fulton and DeKalb overwhelming support the measure.
However, these poll results are somewhat deceiving because of the differences of opinion among Black and White voters in Fulton County. Black voters support the sales tax by a margin of 90% to 10%, while White voters oppose it by a margin of 52% to 43%. Fulton county voters are the largest voting bloc in the ten county metropolitan Atlanta area. Blacks typically make up 45% of the voter pool on Election Day. Therefore their strong support makes it possible for an education sales tax referendum to pass in that county, but it is not universally popular.
Increasing taxes in the current economic downturn is difficult for many elected officials to justify especially, for those who are arguing for less government and lower taxes. Even so, support for education funding tends to cross demographic lines because young, old, Black, White, and Latino voters all seem to believe a quality education is a path to a better quality of life. These survey results show that a coalition of Black and moderate White voters across metro Atlanta could pass a referendum for education funding. Arguably, this same type of coalition would be needed to pass other tax increases in the metro area. Many political observers believe this progressive coalition, throughout Atlanta’s history, has made the right choices to help Atlanta become the commercial center of the South. Atlanta has been widely known for its inclusiveness and an abundance of business and economic opportunity. Whether this or a similar coalition continues to drive political outcomes or not will determine the future of the region and its preeminence in the South.
Click the link below for crosstabs and methodology