CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The upcoming vote on a West Virginia road bond stands a good chance of passage based on the results of the latest MetroNews West Virginia Poll.

But the real question is: Of all those who say they intend to vote on the bond issue, how many will actually follow up and do so?

West Virginia voters go to the polls on Oct. 7 on the road bond. Voters will be asked to allow the state to sell bonds to finance as much as $3 billion in road projects to be paid off with fee and tax increases already approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor.

An overwhelming number of those interviewed for the statewide poll say they intend to vote in favor of the bond’s passage.

Even the professional pollster who designed the questions, Rex Repass, has his doubts.

“We know that’s not going to happen,” Repass said in a telephone interview.

“I think citizens will say ‘Yes, I will vote,’ feel a responsibility to vote. But the reality is, even in general elections, turnout is not what it was in the past.'”

Passage would be a signature achievement for Gov. Jim Justice, who has said the roads projects to be funded would boost the state economy and provide employment for thousands.

The road bond effort has hit significant bumps in recent weeks, though. One was an apparent late start by groups outside the government in organizing a supportive marketing effort. The other was a vote of opposition by the state Republican Executive Committee.

Most West Virginians say they’re likely to vote in the special election on the road bond. Fifty one percent described themselves as extremely likely to do so, while 32 percent said they’re very likely.

“There seems to be some potential optimism for the road bond initiative, and there is a desire for road bond improvement,” Repass said. “However, this vote will completely be determined by turnout for groups behind or against the road bond.”

Of those, most interviewed said they intend to vote in favor of the road bond. Sixty-seven percent responded favorably while 19 percent were against it and 14 percent were unsure.

“While there appears to be some support, the actual turnout will drive approval or disapproval of the road bond amendment,” Repass said.

He added, “People would like to see the roads fixed, would like to see infrastructure improvements. But will they actually vote? If every West Virginian participated, I think it would pass. But I don’t think every West Virginian will.”

The West Virginia Poll resulted from interviews conducted between August 11-20 with a sample of 400 likely voters in West Virginia including registered Democrats, Republicans, Libertarian, Mountain Party, and unaffiliated or independent voters.

Likely voters in all 55 West Virginia counties were represented in the survey modeled to the number of registered voters based on data from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.

Political party seemed to make little difference in participants’ evaluations of the road bond.

Of Democrats, 68.4 percent were in favor and 19.9 percent were against with 11.8 percent not sure.

Of Republicans, 67.5 percent were in favor with 17.9 percent against and 14.6 percent unsure.

There were some variations based on ideology.

Of those who described themselves as liberals, 78.3  percent expressed support for the bond with 15.7 percent against and 6 percent not sure.

Of conservatives, 68.8 percent expressed support with 18.8 percent against and 12.3 percent unsure.

Self-described moderates were 56.8 percent in favor, 21.6 percent in opposition and 21.6 percent “not sure.”

Jim Justice

Observers have wondered how Justice’s early August party switch might factor into people’s attitudes toward the bond vote.

Justice has said there’s everything to gain and — now that the funding mechanism has passed — nothing to lose.

Last week, while speaking at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Summit, Justice said his travels around the state demonstrate support for the bond.

“I went to Welch; there were 75 people in the room. And I said, ‘I want you tell me the truth. Will you do that? Will you tell me anybody you’ve heard — whether it be an inlaw or an outlaw or cousin, even Crazy Harry that works down at the 7-Eleven — anybody you’ve heard that’s going to vote against the road referendum,'” Justice said.

“There wasn’t a single, single hand. Now, I pushed ’em because I wanted ’em to say something like ‘I heard it’s going to raise our taxes,; which is hocus pocus bull. It’s not going to raise your taxes a dime. Every single dime of the revenue is going to the roads.”

Justice said that, in his view, it’s imperative the bond pass.

“This is our absolute chance to go somewhere and start lifting ourselves off,” he told the crowd.

State budget

One of the other big items on Justice’s agenda will be the state budget.

State leaders have required special legislative sessions the past two years to reach agreement on the budget. In 2015, lawmakers relied largely on an increase in the tobacco tax, and this past year the balanced budget relied largely on cuts, particularly to higher education.

Of those who participated in the West Virginia Poll, most felt that cuts should be part of any balanced budget solution.

Thirty-nine percent advised a balanced approach of cuts and tax increases, 31 percent advised balancing mostly through cuts to spending, and 21 percent advised using only cuts to balance the budget.

Only 8 percent advised balancing the budget mostly through tax increases, and 2 percent proposed balancing the budget only through tax increases.

Suggestions on what should be cut, though, were all over the board.

Twenty-nine percent suggested cutting higher education, 17 percent suggested cutting social services such as health care and other services for low income people, and 3 percent said public schools should be subject to cuts.

Those are the big three areas of spending in the state budget.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said those areas should be cut roughly equally.

Twenty-two percent said they’re not sure.

Coming Thursday:

Do voters prefer a Democratic or Republican majority in the Legislature?

How do state residents view Governor Justice’s party switch?

Where does overall approval of the Legislature stand?

Attitudes about prescription drug addiction in West Virginia.

And, are state residents confident in local media?

Methodology:

Results of this edition of MetroNews West Virginia Poll are based on interviews conducted between August 11-20, 2017 with a sample of 400 likely voters in West Virginia including registered Democrats, Republicans, Libertarian, Mountain Party, and unaffiliated or independent voters.  Data collection methods used included landline phone, cell phone, and opt-in Internet panel.  Each data collection method has inherent strengths and weakness.

Likely voters in all 55 West Virginia counties were represented in the survey modeled to the number of registered voters based on data from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.

When using multiple data collection methods, it is not appropriate to apply a probability-based margin of error to interviews completed.  However, applying statistical tests of significance to each question asked at the 95 percent confidence interval yields an overall statistical error of +/- 4.9 percentage points based on the 400 interviews.  The 95 percent confidence interval varies by question.

The purpose of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll is to provide a snapshot of opinion and timely voter views in the Mountain State.  The media sponsor of the West Virginia Poll is MetroNews, the statewide radio network owned by West Virginia Radio Corporation.

Rex Repass is director of the West Virginia Poll and president of Research America Inc. Repass is responsible for questionnaire design, the respondent screening and selection process, data tabulation, statistical analysis, and reporting of results.

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll is a non-partisan survey of public opinion conducted by the Repass and Research America Inc. The West Virginia Poll has been directed by Mr. Repass and conducted periodically since January 21, 1980.  The name The West Virginia Poll is a registered trademark Research America Inc., all rights reserved. For more information, see www.wvpoll.com.

 

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