Kansas Speaks survey finds pessimism on state economy, support for medical marijuana

HAYS, Kan. -- Ten percent of Kansans think the state’s economy is “very good” or “excellent,” but 26 percent think it is “poor” or “very poor,” according to the latest Kansas Speaks survey of public opinion.

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HAYS, Kan. -- Ten percent of Kansans think the state’s economy is “very good” or “excellent,” but 26 percent think it is “poor” or “very poor,” according to the latest Kansas Speaks survey of public opinion.

Slightly less than two-thirds of respondents indicated they felt Kansas was on the “wrong track,” while slightly more than one-third believe Kansas is on the “right track.”

Now in its ninth year, Kansas Speaks is a series of surveys conducted in the spring and fall by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University.

On other pressing or controversial issues of the day, Kansans favor tax increases more than budget cuts to fix the budget deficit, but barely, and marijuana, medical and recreational, enjoys majority support, medical significantly so.

On the state budget crisis, just over two-fifths of respondents wanted to cut spending exclusively, while another one-fourth wanted to increase taxes exclusively. More than one-third favored a combination of tax increases and lower spending. Republicans and those with lower education levels were more likely to favor spending cuts, while Democrats and those with higher education levels were more likely to favor increasing taxes.

Respondents who said they were in favor of “increasing taxes” or “both” were asked which taxes they would increase. Over half (56 percent) favored increasing income tax, 39 percent favored increasing sales taxes, and 19 percent favored increasing property tax. Republicans and women were more likely to favor an increased sales tax, while Democrats and men were more likely to favor increasing the income tax.

Similar to results of previous years, when asked about preferences for various taxation categories, respondents were most in favor of raising taxes on large corporations and the top income earners. The vast majority were against raising taxes on small business and the middle class.

The Docking Institute conducted the spring 2017 Kansas Speaks survey from Feb. 23 to April 11. A random sample of adult residents of Kansas age 18 and older was surveyed by telephone to assess their attitudes and opinions regarding various issues of interest to Kansas citizens.

A total of 1,362 Kansas residents were contacted; 573 completed the survey, a 42-percent response rate. The margin of error was 4 percent at a 95-percent confidence level.

The full report, in pdf form, is available through the Kansas Speaks link on the page at www.fhsu.edu/docking.

On specific taxes, 69 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” support increasing taxes on cigarettes and cigars, and 68 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” support increasing taxes on alcohol. Seventy percent of respondents “strongly” or “somewhat” support closing the LLC loophole.

Of respondents who said they favored “decreasing spending” or “both,” 32 percent favored decreasing spending on social services, 30 percent favored cutting higher education, 25 percent favored cutting funds for roads and highways, and 13 percent favored decreasing spending on K-12 education.

Republicans were more likely to favor decreasing spending on higher education and social services. Males were more likely favor cuts to K-12 education.

Legalizing recreational marijuana for individuals 21 and older to allow taxation by the state was “strongly” or “somewhat” supported by 50 percent of respondents, and 40 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” opposed the idea.

But medical marijuana was at least “somewhat” supported by 76 percent and was opposed by only 14 percent.” Of the political categories, only the strongest Republicans were more likely to oppose than support allowing medical marijuana.

Dissatisfaction with Gov. Sam Brownback declined slightly from last year, to 56 percent “very dissatisfied” from 62 percent a year ago; 71 percent are to some degree dissatisfied with Brownback, down from 74 percent one year ago.

For President Donald Trump, 45 percent of respondents showed some level of satisfaction, while 44 percent of respondents showed some level of dissatisfaction.

On President Trump’s relationship with the Russian government or President Vladimir Putin, 49 percent of respondents were at least “somewhat uncomfortable,” and 32 percent were at least “somewhat comfortable.” Males and Republicans tended to be the most comfortable, with Democrats and Independents being more likely to express discomfort.

On the perennial question of rating Kansas as a place to live, about half indicated Kansas was “very good” or “excellent,” but 6 percent, a record high over the history of the survey, rated Kansas “poor” or “very poor.” Republican and Independent respondents were more likely to rate Kansas highly as a place to live.

For more information, contact Dr. Gary Brinker, director of the Docking Institute of Public Affairs, 785-628-5949, gdbrinker@fhsu.edu.