Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 | 2 a.m.
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A pessimistic Nevada electorate would rather see its taxes increase than further cuts to education and health care, putting support for raising taxes at the highest level since the poll began 2 ½ years ago.
But the poll, released this morning, also shows voters don’t want to give government a blank check: An overwhelming number would support a spending cap on government tied to economic growth, and still believe there is waste, fraud and abuse in the state bureaucracy to be cut.
On top of that, 64 percent believe higher taxes or fees would result in additional job losses.
The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted Sept. 14-15 by Public Opinion Strategies. The Retail Association of Nevada, a conservative business and lobbying group active in Carson City, has commissioned five polls, approximately every six months. The poll has a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points.
Nevadans have gotten gloomier about the direction of their state over the past six months.
In February, 69 percent said the state was headed in the wrong direction. This month, 77 percent said it is on the wrong track, the second-highest number since the polls began.
The results reflect “the continuing brutal toll that the economy is taking on Nevadans,” said Mary Lau, president of the Retail Association of Nevada.
Yet Nevadans would rather see taxes increase than government cut further. Just 35 percent of voters told pollsters this month they wanted to “cut spending,” down from a peak of 43 percent in September 2010. “Support for raising taxes to address the budget shortfall is at an all-time high,” pollster Glen Bolger wrote in a presentation.
In February, at the start of the legislative session, support for tax increases was at 52 percent. (Democratic proposals to increase taxes didn’t receive any Republican support, and lawmakers agreed to extend taxes scheduled to expire in June.) The low point for voter support of taxes came in September 2010, when Republican Brian Sandoval and Democrat Rory Reid were running for governor and promising not to raise taxes; 41 percent of respondents supported raising taxes then.
As economic conditions have worsened, Nevadans increasingly want state government to focus on jobs (36 percent) and the economy (19 percent) as the state’s No. 1 priority. In May 2009, a combined answer of “jobs and the economy” was a priority for 31 percent of respondents.
Nevadans are mixed in allocating blame for the condition of the national and state economy, with the incumbents faring relatively well. Former President George W. Bush was blamed by 30 percent of respondents; 24 percent blamed President Barack Obama. Only 2 percent blamed Gov. Brian Sandoval, while 15 percent blamed former Gov. Jim Gibbons. Most people — 55 percent — blamed the national economy for the state’s woes.
The poll also showed:
• 42 percent strongly or somewhat approve of the job Obama is doing, compared with 55 percent who strongly or somewhat disapprove of his performance. That number is slightly worse for Obama than a year ago, when it was 45/52.
• 50 percent said they strongly or somewhat approve of Sandoval’s performance as governor, while 33 percent disapproved, and 15 percent didn’t know. In February, at the start of the legislative session, Sandoval’s rating was at 47 percent approval and 26 percent disapproval.