A majority of Hoosiers oppose a proposed cut in income taxes as well as a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage but support the decriminalization of marijuana, according to a new poll by Ball State University and WISH-TV.
The survey, which polled more than 600 Hoosiers 18 years and older, also found that Hoosiers, don't have strong opinions about the state's voucher program, which uses public money to send lower-income students to private schools.
Officials from the Ball State Bowen Center for Public Affairs released the results Thursday morning at the Legislative Conference, an event previewing issues before the Indiana General Assembly. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Only 31 percent of those polled said they favored the 10 percent income tax cut that Gov.-elect Mike Pence pushed during his campaign for governor and has since said will be a top priority.
"This cut would give Hoosiers the lowest tax burdens in the Midwest," said Lt. Gov.-elect Sue Ellspermann during a speech at the conference. "It would return $500 million to our Hoosier economy to be invested, spent or used to create more Hoosier jobs."
But a significant majority of poll respondents - 64 percent - said they would rather see government spending increase instead of another tax cut.
"You must remember that Hoosiers are also aware of another tax cut that is coming out of the surplus" built by Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration, said Ray Scheele, co-director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs. "They could have very easily put this in their frame of reference and said this is two tax cuts and we're already getting one."
The Daniels tax cut is part of an automatic taxpayer refund program approved by the General Assembly that provides Hoosiers with an income tax credit when the state's surplus exceeds targets set by law.
Scheele said the poll found some Hoosiers favored tax increases if they knew exactly where the money would be spent.
The pollsters called people based on age, not voter registration which they said gives them a more accurate representation of the population, especially the younger generation, said Ball State professor Joe Losco. That's one reason the poll likely found that more Hoosiers favor same sex marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana.
The poll found that 45 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage, while 45 percent oppose it. Those in favor tended to be younger and generally had more education.
But although respondents were evenly split on marriage, a majority of Hoosiers are against putting a ban on same sex marriage into the Indiana Constitution. More than 54 percent said that there shouldn't be a ban.
The Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly is expected to take up a proposed constitutional amendment next year to ban same sex marriage and legal arrangements that are like marriage. The proposal already has passed the General Assembly once. If it passes again this year or next, it will go on the ballot in 2014 for ratification by voters.
"If you think this is a hot button issue in the legislature, just wait until you set it loose on the state of Indiana," said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, during a panel discussion later in the conference. "Hopefully, we're going to take a time out on wars on unions, women' health matters and on immigrants and gays."
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he expects the House will take up the marriage amendment, although he said it's not a caucus priority. Bosma acknowledged that some are pushing for lawmakers to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a same-sex marriage case next year.
But he said lawmakers may not want to wait. And he said he discourages his team from making decisions based on polling.
Also next year, Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, has said he will look into a bill this session that would decriminalize marijuana. That would mean that people caught with small amounts of the drug would pay fines rather than face criminal penalties.
The poll found 53 percent of respondents in favor of decriminalizing the drug while 41 percent were against it. Again, those in favor tended to be much younger than those against it.
"So I think we're seeing a transition here generationally that's pretty important," Losco said.
The poll also found that Hoosiers are undecided about recent changes to the state's education system that let lower-income students go to private schools using public money.
Only 28 percent of respondents favor the voucher program, 31 percent are against it and 39 percent said they are undecided. The numbers for those in favor as well as those who disapprove are both down.
"What this data is telling us is that the public is still making up their mind," Scheele said. "The fact is they've kind of shifted into a no opinion category."
But that doesn't mean Hoosiers are uninformed about the issue. Scheele said that most Indiana residents are familiar with the program but still haven't decided if it is a good thing or not.
Zach Osowski is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
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