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OPB Poll: Oregon Voters Think Corporations Pay Too Little

<p>A driver drops of their ballot outside Multnomah County election headquarters in Portland, Ore., Monday, Nov. 3, 2014. </p>

Don Ryan


A driver drops of their ballot outside Multnomah County election headquarters in Portland, Ore., Monday, Nov. 3, 2014.

Oregon voters tend to be worried about their personal finances, skeptical of how government spends their tax dollars and opposed to tax hikes — with one big exception.

Those are the findings of a that lays out the political dynamics surrounding a proposed ballot measure to raise corporate taxes by $2.6 billion a year.

The Feb. 22-25 survey of 400 registered voters found that 57 percent believe big business pays too little in taxes. In contrast, only 8 percent believe individuals are under-taxed.

John Horvick of DHM Research of Portland, which conducted the poll for OPB, said the survey findings show why unions and other left-of-center groups are supporting a gross receipts tax on large corporations.

They are collecting signatures for Initiative Petition 28 — which would levy a 2.5 percent tax on a corporation’s Oregon sales above $25 million — to qualify for the November ballot.

“People do believe that big corporations don’t pay enough,” Horvick said. “It speaks to why this IP 28 strategy is being used. There is an opening for that kind of tax argument.”

Polled Democrats strongly believed that large corporations pay too little in taxes, with 75 percent holding that view. But even 37 percent of Republican voters believe big business pays too little.  

RELATED: View detailed poll results  .

The poll also shows why critics of Initiative Petition 28 have repeatedly charged the measure is really a hidden sales tax that will raise the price of many goods and services. It’s not only that Oregon voters have long opposed a sales tax — it’s that voters appear in no mood to tax themselves.

All told, just 18 percent said they supported increasing state taxes to fund more programs and services. Forty-three percent preferred the current level of taxation and 33 percent said they wanted lower taxes.

The poll — which has a margin of error of 5 percentage points — also showed some reasons why voters aren’t eager to pay more in taxes.

A majority of 55 percent said they are worried about their personal finances. And voters on average estimate that 44 cents out of every dollar the state spends is wasted. At the same time, voters on average say only 31 cents of every dollar is spent in ways that benefits their daily lives.

Horvick said the specific numbers on how much people think is wasted is less important than in showing how skeptical they are about state government. That skepticism extends across party lines. On average, Democrats think 35 cents on every dollar is wasted while Republicans peg the waste at 50 cents.

In many ways, Horvick noted, the battle over the tax measure will test whether voters are more skeptical of big government or of big business.

The poll showed that voters did have some positive impressions about the state. Forty-nine percent said the state was headed in the right direction, with 39 percent saying it was on the wrong track. 

All told, 30 percent also said the state’s economy was getting better while 22 percent said it was getting worse. Nearly half of voters — 46 percent — said it was about the same.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.