Geoff Dornan

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February 25, 2013
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Survey: Nevadans for legal pot, same sex marriage and the margins tax

According to a newly released survey, Nevadans favor legalizing pot, allowing same sex marriage and approving the teachers' union business tax.

The survey was commissioned by the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN). Public Opinion Strategies interviewed 500 likely voters between Feb. 16-18 - including 125 cell phone interviews to eliminate the effect of undercounting young voters.

The results - with a margin error of under 4.4 percent - showed 58 percent of those polled favor passage of the so-called margins tax on business to pump $800 million a year into K-12 education. A majority of all but one category - those voters identifying themselves as part of the GOP "base" - backed the tax. Those conservative voters opposed the tax by 65 percent.

At the same time, a narrow majority of 52 percent agreed with opponents that the tax would impact businesses in making decisions including expanding, hiring and setting wages.

More surprising to RAN officials were the results when those interviewed were asked about social issues.

Spokesman Jim Denton said those questions were included in the survey to help gauge how Nevada has changed over the years.

"If you just go back 10 years, would same sex marriage pass in Nevada? No way. Would marijuana pass in Nevada? No way," he said. "What that poll says to me is this is not the same state it was even 10 years ago."

Denton pointed to the number of Hispanics and women in the Legislature and other offices, including Nevada's constitutional offices.

Asked about legalizing marijuana, it wasn't surprising that those under age 35 backed the elimination of penalties, but the margin - 75 percent - was. They weren't alone. The poll shows more than 50 percent of all age groups up to 64 back legalization. Those aged 65 and up were against but only by 52-48 percent.

A majority of Nevadans, according to the survey, also favor removing the prohibition on same sex marriage they put in Nevada's Constitution in 2002. Only those identifying themselves as deeply conservative were against - by 76 percent.

Those polled were pretty evenly divided when asked about Nevada's law mandating employers who don't provide health insurance to pay $1 higher minimum wage than those who do. In the face of President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour, that would put those businesses at $10 an hour.

According to the survey, 49 percent oppose removing that penalty while 47 percent would eliminate it.

A total of 73 percent of those surveyed believe the state's education system needs major reform, but apparently not just by pumping more money into it. Only 22 percent listed more money as the answer.

Education has surpassed jobs and the economy as the top priority for voters in the past year, the poll shows. Some 45 percent of those polled now put improving Nevada's educational system at the top ot the state's needs.

Within education, the top priority among likely voters was reducing class sizes - 38 percent. Only 22 percent said teachers should make higher salaries. Among parents surveyed, smaller classes and all day kindergarten were to top priorities.

Asked about taxes, 62 percent said they pay about the right amount. Only a quarter of those surveyed said they pay too much.

Denton said the initial reaction of those polled on the margins tax was solid support but that the level of support faded when they considered the broader impact of the tax.

Even though 58 percent of those polled said they would rather see taxes raised than more spending cuts, nearly two-thirds said they believe higher taxes will result in additional job losses and hurt efforts to diversify the state's economy. More than 60 percent said tax reforms shouldn't include increases.

Denton said opponents have a big hill to climb if they are to convince voters to reject the margins tax.

"When they read the part that says 'Education Initiative,' that's where they stop reading," he said.

He said the proposed tax has significant impacts but that, "it's going to be a real challenge for opponents to make that case."

RAN has polster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies in Virginia do the poll every six months.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Feb 26, 2013 01:49AM Published Feb 25, 2013 12:35AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.