As the 2014 political battle kicks off to raise sales taxes 14.29% in Pinellas County to build a train and expand the PSTA budget, voters have made their position clear. A January 22 poll shows the Greenlight Pinellas campaign is on shaky ground with 60.9% of likely voters saying they would not support a hike of sales tax to build a train. The Sun Beam Times poll was conducted through the respected polling company St. Pete Polls. The poll shows that, despite over $400,000 in tax dollars dedicated to the Greenlight political campaign so far, the rail tax is unlikely to pass in November. A similar transit tax hike failed in Tampa in 2010 (58:42) despite $1.6 million spent in support and only $20,000 in opposition. The method of the poll also showed that when educated about the tax hike, 30% of people who supported the tax hike at the beginning of the poll immediately changed their mind to oppose the 14% tax hike. Even before the poll educated respondents of the nature of the tax hike, 45% opposed it with only 39% supporting with 16% undecided.
The Sun Beam Times poll was conducted only among Pinellas County registered voters who voted in the off-year 2010 election – likely voters in 2014. The Poll had a final sample size of 2114 respondents for purposes of weighting, but 2698 for raw data. The final poll results were weighted to account for the political party, race, sex and age demographics of the likely voters, which did not appreciably change the results*. The poll also showed that only about 17.5% of these voters would be willing to ride a train between St. Petersburg and Clearwater “on a regular basis”. The poll further showed that the majority of people were unaware that the sales tax hike would be 14% and would make Pinellas the county with the highest sales tax in the state (56%).
The poll shows a continued loss of support for the 14% sales tax hike. In October, The Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9 (through Braun Research) surveyed only 521 people in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and these were not likely voters but “residents” older than 18 in both Pinellas and Hillsborough county. That poll showed 56% in favor and 36% opposed and included non-voters and those who live outside Pinellas County. A Hillsborough poll in 2010, showed the rail tax in Hillsborough would pass 51 to 39, but the vote was 58% against. The new results show nearly a 36% decline in support (from 46.8-30.1) for a tax hike to raise rail, moving from a 50:50 split to a 60:30 split, compared to an April 2013 poll by StPetePolls.org.
The Sun Beam times poll results showing 61% opposition to the 14% rail tax hike are clearly more reliable than a very small poll including non-Pinellas county residents and non-voters. The Sun Beam Times poll offers a cautionary note to those who are being asked to help fund what will certainly be a campaign spending over $1 million to pass the Greenlight Pinellas 14% sales tax hike. The money spent to pass a 14% sales tax hike for rail will likely not result in an easy victory.
Representatives of both No Tax for Tracks and PSTA were contacted to comment on the results, but have not yet responded.
The poll results are as follows
The poll started as follows:
“This is quick poll on the Greenlight Pinellas sales tax referendum in November.”
Do you support raising sales taxes to build a commuter train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater?
Not sure: 16.1%
Are you likely to ride a train between St. Petersburg and Clearwater on a regular basis?
Not sure: 8.5%
Were you aware that Sales taxes will be raised from 7 cents to 8 cents, a 14% increase, creating the highest sales tax in Florida?
Not sure: 6.2%
Do you still support raising sales taxes to build a commuter train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater?
(This question was only asked to 1095 people who said Yes or Not Sure to the first question)
Not sure: 14.8%
Overall support for raising sales taxes to build a commuter train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater, (including forth question change of responses):
Not sure: 9.0%
*raw, un-weighted data available upon request
Note, The Founder and Editor of the Sun Beam Times is a contributor of No Tax for Tracks.com. The PSTA has used over $400,000 in taxpayer dollars to support the Greenlight Campaign so far.
Note an earlier version of this story indicated the wrong percentage of tax hike. The correct percentage hike is 14.29%.