Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thinking About the Budget -- Some Voters See Fairness Where Others ... Not So Much

The new Quinnipiac University poll is out today. The results getting the most attention concern voter support for the proposed rules the Board of Health will vote on tomorrow that will require doctors and clinics providing abortion services to have facilities comparable to hospitals.

But unreferenced in the press release and not highlighted in the press conference on the poll held today are some interesting disparities that the poll reveals regarding the way women and black voters see the state budget. These disparities were also evident and uncommented upon in the first Quinnipiac poll done in Virginia in June.

Both the June poll (question 19) and the one released today (question 23) asked registered voters whether they "think that the state budget is fair or unfair to people like you." The overall trend among all voters surveyed is toward "fair" with the twelve point increase in voters who see it as fair coming largely from voters who said in June they didn't know or didn't have an answer. There are, however, striking disparities between women and men and black and white voters surveyed.

In the poll released today, only 43% of women said they think the budget is fair to them (vs. 67% of men), a 24 point disparity, and only 35% of black voters (vs. 60% of white voters), a 25 point disparity, think the budget is fair to them. While slightly more women voters now think the budget is fair to them than did so in June (43% of women vs. 36% of women in June), a smaller percentage of black voters do (35% of black voters vs. 38% in June). And, a higher percentage of black voters now thinks that the budget is unfair to them 57% vs 40% in June, with the increase in those thinking it is unfair coming from those who said in June they didn't know if it was fair or unfair to them.

Both the June poll (question 20) and the one released today (question 24) also asked "what do you think about the cuts in state spending in the budget? Do you think the cuts in state spending go too far, not far enough or are they about right?" Again, the overall trend is toward "about right" with 40% of those surveyed responding "about right" in September and only 29% giving that answer in June.

Nonetheless, black voters views have remained virtually unchanged with 42% saying "too far" in September vs. 41% in June, 18% saying "not far enough" vs. 19%, and 29% saying "about right" vs. 27%. What has changed, however, is the disparity between their views and those of white voters. The percentage of black voters responding that the cuts have gone "too far" is now 21 points higher than white voters, up from 16 points in June ( 42% of black voters responded that the cuts had gone "too far" in September vs. 21% of white voters).

  Similarly, there is an increasing disparity in the percentage of women vs. men who think that the cuts have gone "too far." 30% of women vs. 20% of men responded that way in September and 33% of women vs. 25% of men responded that way in June. And, although the percentage of women who think that the cuts are "about right" has risen, the disparity between women and men who think that the cuts are "about right:" has risen from 9 points in June to 12 points in the poll released today.

So, the question is what accounts for these disparities in the way people think about the state budget? The simplest answer may be what you see depends on where you stand.

Perhaps it is the case that women and African Americans in Virginia are more likely to experience the real impact when the strands of the safety net are being cut out from under them, so they may "feel" the cuts more directly. I don't know, but I do think it is important to ask the question and seek to discover the answer.

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