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North Dakotans lean heavily 'no' on Measure 2

©Copyright 2012

Forum Communications Co.

FARGO - North Dakota voters appear ready to reject Measure 2, a proposal to eliminate property taxes, by a margin of almost 3 to 1.

A Forum Communications poll of 500 likely voters found 74 percent planned to vote against Measure 2 in the June 12 primary, with 26 percent saying they will vote yes.

The telephone survey was conducted May 3 to 8 by Essman/Research of Des Moines, Iowa, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

The poll found no significant differences among party affiliation, with Republicans, Democrats and independents all overwhelmingly opposed to eliminating property taxes.

Voters more than 30 years old were more likely than younger voters to reject Measure 2. More than three-fourths of those older than 30, 77 percent, said they will vote against the proposal, while 65 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 30 plan to reject Measure 2.

Measure 2 would amend the North Dakota Constitution to eliminate property taxes. Legislators would have to replace lost revenues to cities, counties, townships, school districts and other units of local government.

An analysis by the Office of the North Dakota Tax Commissioner estimated that passage of Measure 2 would require legislators to replace lost property tax revenues totaling $812.2 million for the first year of the 2011-2013 biennium - a figure that would amount to more than $1.6 billion over the duration of the state's two-year budget cycle.

Among those planning to vote for Measure 2, the leading reason, cited by 47 percent of those favoring the repeal, was the belief that the state's surplus revenues from other taxes would make property taxes unnecessary.

Almost a quarter, 23 percent, said they believe in less government, with 20 percent saying it puts more money in my pocket.

"Property taxes are out of hand," one poll respondent said. "They're to the point now where people are losing homes easy. It's extortion."

Another respondent favoring eliminating property taxes said: "Too much money goes to the schools. They have free rein on the money."

Yet another simply said, "My property taxes are too high."

Among those opposed to Measure 2's property tax ban, the leading reason, cited by 58 percent, was uncertainty about how lost revenue would be replaced.

The next most common reason, given by 27 percent, and the leading reason among Republicans, was the loss of government control.

Another 11 percent reject Measure 2 because it could cause government to run out of money.

Distrust of central government emerged as a strong theme of those opposed to Measure 2, according to comments compiled by pollsters.

"I don't trust the people in the Legislature to do what's right," one respondent said.

Another said: "I don't trust anybody because they are going to figure out some way to screw it up. It won't help the common man."

Other opponents of Measure 2 expressed support for government services they thought would be in jeopardy.

"It would take the money away from small counties and for school, fire department and police," one respondent said. "How will they pay for the school and fire department and police if we don't pay property taxes?"

One poll respondent said out-of-state property owners would end up paying no taxes if Measure 2 passed.

Another said: "We are just against it in our town because it doesn't give us an advantage of living in a cheaper house."

The telephone survey sample was 52 percent female, 48 percent male. Most, 78 percent, were interviewed by residential landline telephones, and 22 percent were reached by cellphone.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they were extremely likely to vote, 27 percent said very likely, and 17 percent said somewhat likely.

In terms of party affiliation, 38 percent described themselves as Republican, 37 percent as independent, 23 percent Democrat and 2 percent other.

About the poll

Forum Communications Co. commissioned Essman/Research, an independent research firm in Des Moines, Iowa, to poll North Dakota residents on two initiated measures on the ballot June 12 and the evolving matchups in the U.S. House and Senate races.

The poll gathered information from 500 likely voters in the state between May 3 and May 8. Of that sample, 392 surveys were completed on land line telephones, and 108 surveys were completed on cellphones.

The confidence level of the poll is 95 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

Essman developed the survey and the random sample and conducted the polling.

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