A new survey indicates discrepancies between what Kansans want and what the state Legislature is doing on some key public issues. The survey was conducted by Fort Hays State University’s Docking Institute of Public Affairs.
According to the school, for several years the Docking Institute has conducted a comprehensive statewide public opinion telephone survey each fall to measure Kansans’ opinions on a wide range of public issues and their evaluations of elected officials. It just completed a smaller Kansas Speaks survey for spring 2015.
The Institute surveyed 519 random Kansas adults in March and asked their opinions on a variety of public policy issues. The results, with a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent, showed that Kansans are concerned about the state economy, with 40 percent saying they were “very concerned” that the Kansas economy will seriously threaten their family’s welfare, up from 32 percent in fall 2013. The results suggest that, in many ways, the legislative policies emerging from the Kansas Legislature are not in line with the preferences of most Kansans.
For example, although the Legislature voted in 2014 to decrease taxes on the highest earners and corporations, 65 percent of respondents said they preferred to increase taxes on top earners, and 74 percent wanted to increase taxes on corporations. Ninety-three percent preferred to lower or keep the current tax rates for small businesses.
Forty-nine percent of respondents indicated they opposed the recently approved block grant method of funding public schools in Kansas, while 30 percent favored and 22 percent provided a “Don’t Know” response. Interestingly, more than half of respondents said they believed the Legislature (51 percent), as opposed to the courts (35 percent), should determine what a “suitable” level of funding for Kansas public schools should be, which aligns with the Legislature’s preferences.
Sixty percent favor expanding Medicaid in Kansas under the Affordable Care Act, something the Legislature has considered but has been reluctant to approve.
More than 65 percent of respondents favored increasing the tax on cigarettes to $2.29 per pack. When asked about policies regarding the use of marijuana, 68 percent said they favored allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana to their patients, while 63 percent favored decriminalizing recreational marijuana so that the penalty would be a fine with no jail time.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was supported by 44 percent, while 55 percent expressed opposition to fracking in Kansas.
With regard to concealed carrying of firearms, 74 percent of respondents said they opposed allowing Kansans to carry concealed firearms if they were not certified to have had formal training in their use.
To access the full report, go to http://www.fhsu.edu/docking/Kansas-Speaks/ and click on “Kansas Speaks Spring 2015.”