Wisconsin Economic Scorecard
2:41 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

New Poll: Wisconsinites Would Spend Budget Surplus on Education, Medicaid

Wisconsinites would like to see the state spend money from its projected budget surplus on education and Medicaid, according to the results of a new poll released today.

The Wisconsin Economic Scorecard poll, conducted by UWM’s Center for Urban Initiatives and Research, asked 621 residents across the state how they would prioritize spending.  Forty percent of respondents said education should be the top priority, while thirty-three percent said additional Medicaid funding should be the most important.  An additional sixteen percent said income tax cuts should be at the top of the list, while ten percent thought it was most important to cover shortfalls in the transportation fund.

A new poll shows Wisconsinites divided over whether to use the state's budget surplus for income tax cuts.
Credit UWM CUIR graph

Perhaps most significant was how united most Wisconsinites were on putting education and Medicaid at the top of the list.  “This remained true across every demographic division,” survey manager Joseph Cera told Lake Effect’s Mitch Teich. 

"Gender, age, education, whether you lived in rural, urban, or suburban areas %u2013 employed, unemployed, retired %u2013 these were the top two priorities." - UWM CUIR Survey Manager Joseph Cera

But there was one exception, Cera pointed out.  “Income tax cuts were preferred by those who describe themselves as ‘very conservative’.”  That group amounts to about twelve percent of the population.  Thirty percent describe themselves as ‘somewhat conservative’ – that group was aligned with all the other demographic breakdowns in prioritizing education and Medicaid funding.

The poll, sponsored by WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and WisBusiness.com, also asked about several specific proposals getting attention ahead of Governor Scott Walker’s budget address, scheduled for next week.   A razor-thin majority – fifty-one percent – oppose the idea of tying increases in education funding to school performance.  And respondents were equally divided over whether to divert much of the budget surplus to income tax reductions.

Cera wasn’t surprised at the results on that latter issue, given how closely divided many statewide elections have been in recent years.  “People just break down by party lines,” he said.   “Democrats are dramatically opposed to using the surplus funds in this manner, while Republicans would prefer to see the surplus  funds go to a tax cut.”

With mining legislation moving its way rapidly through the Wisconsin legislature, the poll also looked into how Wisconsinites prioritize competing economic and environmental concerns linked to a proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.  There, too, the state’s divided nature came to the surface. 

Around eighty-five percent of the respondents expressed an opinion about the legislation itself – and those Wisconsinites were evenly split.  So Cera and his survey team looked at the remaining fifteen percent. 

“We asked them which was the more important consideration – potential economic impact of the proposed mine, specifically up to 3,000 new jobs in the northern part of the state; or the potential environmental costs – air pollution and contamination of ground and surface water.  And of the undecided people, sixty-two percent say the environmental costs are the more important consideration.”

The Wisconsin Economic Scorecard poll was conducted between February 4-7, and the sampling margin of error was plus/minus 3.9 percent.