Education Tax Credit: Maryland Statewide Voter Poll

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1 706 Giddings Avenue, Suite 2C Annapolis, Maryland (410) Fax: (410) To: From: Maryland Education Credit Coalition Steve Raabe, President OpinionWorks, LLC Date: Subject: Education Tax Credit: Maryland Statewide Voter Poll This statewide poll shows strong statewide voter support for the proposal to create a Maryland Education Credit. More than six in ten voters support the proposal, and place great value on its potential to help lower- and middle-income families obtain a quality education. This telephone survey of 600 randomly-selected Maryland registered voters was conducted August 13-29, 2015, using trained and supervised live interviewers. The findings have a potential sampling error of no more than ± 4.0% at the 95% confidence level. Both landline and cellular telephone numbers were included in the sample. A more detailed methodology statement is found at the end of this memorandum. Nearly Two-Thirds Support the Maryland Education Credit Support for the Maryland Education Credit is strong, approaching two-thirds of Maryland voters. When offered a brief description of the proposal, 63% of voters statewide support it, with only 28% opposed. One-quarter (25%) of the State s voters support the proposal strongly, and another 39% support it somewhat. This contrasts with 17% of voters who oppose the Maryland Education Credit strongly, and 11% who oppose it somewhat.

2 Page 2 Prior to answering that question, poll respondents heard the following description of the Maryland Education Credit: The proposal would create the Maryland Education Credit. It would financially assist lower- and middle-income students and their families through donations from businesses that would be encouraged by the tax credit. The business donations would be managed by nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to both public and nonpublic school students. Public school students would receive assistance to cover things such as books, tutoring, or special education services. Nonpublic school students would receive scholarships to help pay for tuition. Nonpublic schools that charge higher tuition would not be eligible for the program. Voters residing in the state capital exhibited an even stronger level of support, with 71% favoring the proposal and only 19% opposed. Understanding this High Level of Support Following their initial reaction to the proposal, voters statewide were asked to assess broadly why they felt that way, and what specific factors were influencing their opinion. In explaining their support in an open-ended way, voters focused on the financial help the Education Credit will provide to lower-income students, and the better access it could provide children to the highest quality education. Voters who support this proposal also said that they value the encouragement it gives businesses to provide more support for education. Responding to closed-ended questioning, one key factor rose to the top of those that influence support for this proposal: helping to break the cycle of poverty. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of Maryland s voters said this statement about the Maryland Education Credit would make them more likely to support it: Giving families in low-income neighborhoods the opportunity to choose a school with better educational outcomes would help break the cycle of poverty in those neighborhoods. Nearly one-half of voters (45%) said this would make them much more likely to support the Education Credit.

3 Page 3 Beyond those specific factors, voters are strongly inclined to believe in the basic concept that underlies the Education Credit. Nearly two-thirds (62%) agree with the idea that The State of Maryland should give tax incentives to businesses to support education through voluntary donations. Only 19% disagree with that fundamental proposition. Voters are also strongly convinced that Middle and low-income students and their families often need help affording educational needs like books, uniforms, transportation, and tutoring. An overwhelming 81% agree with that statement, while only 7% disagree.

4 Page 4 Furthermore, if the Education Credit were to cause some students to move from their public school to a private or religious school that their family feels is better suited to their needs, only 10% of the State s voters would see that as a bad thing. Four times as many would see that migration as a good thing. This support for allowing families to choose their own schools can be explained in part by the impact of overcrowding in public schools. Overwhelmingly, voters are convinced that If we relieved overcrowding, public schools would be much more successful. Three-quarters (74%) of voters statewide agree with this idea, while only 14% disagree. Voters find this aspect of the Education Credit to be appealing.

5 Page 5 Informed Support Tops Opposition by Three-to-One After having heard several facts about the Maryland Education Credit, voters were asked again to assess their support or opposition to the proposal. Based on this information, support reaches 68% of voters, with 31% strongly in favor. Opposition falls to 23%, with only 14% of voters strongly opposed. Support for the Maryland Education Credit Crosses Political Lines In a rare show of bi-partisan unity, voters of all political stripes support this proposal in nearly equal numbers, as illustrated in the table below. Support is found in all segments of the electorate and in all corners of the State, cresting at 74% among African-Americans, and 82% in Prince George s County. Support for Education Tax Credit among Voter Subgroups Voter Group Favor Oppose Net All Voters 68% 23% + 45% Democrats 69% 23% +46% Republicans 66% 23% +43% All Others 70% 24% +46% Whites 67% 24% +43% African-Americans 74% 18% +56% All Others 69% 25% +44% Baltimore City 69% 22% +47% Baltimore County 73% 22% +51% Greater Baltimore 67% 24% +43% Montgomery County 63% 31% +32% Prince George s County 82% 11% +71% Greater Washington 71% 21% +50% Western Maryland 63% 23% +40% Southern Maryland 66% 15% +51% Eastern Shore 63% 29% +34%

6 Page 6 Voters See the Opportunities, Not Risks, in the Education Credit Proposal Summing up, voters statewide were asked to identify which of two viewpoints about this proposal came closer to their own point of view. The two viewpoints were summarized as follows, and rotated so that voters heard each statement first about half the time: Supporters of this proposal say that awarding these voluntary contributions to lower- and middle-income families based on merit and need would give those families options and help them find the most successful school for their own children. Opponents say this proposal will weaken public schools, especially in impoverished neighborhoods, and that this is just a way to siphon resources from struggling public schools to private and religious schools that don t need the help. Based on these statements, 60% of voters chose the supporter point of view, compared to only 26% who felt closer to the opponent point of view. The remaining 14% said they could not choose.

7 Page 7 Concern for Baltimore May Play a Role Marylanders have deep and personal concern for the difficulties in Baltimore. Eighty-two percent of voters across the State said they are concerned personally about the problems in Baltimore, and a majority (51%) said they are very concerned personally. A large majority of voters statewide (74%) believe the State of Maryland should play an active role in trying to help solve the problems in Baltimore. Voters are looking for the State to be part of the solution there. As one factor, voters in Baltimore City and around Maryland give very poor grades to Baltimore s public schools. Only 21% of Baltimore City voters would give a grade of A or B to the City s public schools. Looking at the situation from the outside, only 9% of voters in the

8 Page 8 State s other 23 jurisdictions would grade the City s schools an A or B. By contrast, 51% of voters statewide would give the public schools in their own jurisdiction an A or B. Conclusion This proposal is strongly supported by voters, and for a variety of understandable reasons. Voters appreciate the assistance it will provide for lower- and middle-income students, they believe businesses have a positive role to play, and they see a benefit to families being able to choose the school they feel is best for them. How This Poll Was Conducted OpinionWorks interviewed 600 randomly-selected registered voters across Maryland by telephone August 13 29, The interviews were conducted by trained and supervised live interviewers who are skilled in opinion research best practices. The poll has a potential sampling error of no more than ± 4.0% at a 95% confidence level, meaning that at least 95% of the time the survey results would differ by no more than that margin if every registered voter in Maryland had been interviewed. Interviewees were drawn randomly from the database of registered voters, supplied by the State Board of Elections and matched with landline and cellular telephone numbers by a commercial vendor. The sample was balanced geographically and by political party during interviewing, and respondents were screened to ensure that only registered voters were interviewed. Weights were applied to bring the voter sample into compliance with the demographic breakdown of the registered voter population. Brief Background on OpinionWorks OpinionWorks conducts frequent opinion studies at the state and local level across the country. We are the polling organization for The Baltimore Sun newspaper in Maryland, and have polled for numerous other media throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. We have conducted statewide surveys for the court systems in Florida and Utah; for the health departments in West Virginia and the District of Columbia; for public universities in New York, Maryland, and Utah; and for conservation agencies and advocates in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and New York. In addition to these public surveys, we assess donor and customer relationships for a variety of non-profit and for-profit entities nationally.

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