April 16, 2019 10:47:31 AM
With roughly four months before Mississippians go to the polls to elect all state-wide offices, the latest Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey provides an interesting glimpse into what likely voters see as important issues in the campaign.
Going strictly by the results of the survey, the "perfect" candidate considers the Legislature's $1.1 billion in funding for roads/bridges infrastructure as inadequate and would have raising taxes on big corporations or increasing the state's fuel tax to properly fund those needed improvements.
That candidate would also advocate more spending on K-12 education, ensuring that healthcare is more accessible and affordable and protect struggling rural hospitals, perhaps by expanding Medicaid.
That candidate would favor reforming the sales tax on groceries -- favoring removing those taxes altogether or reducing the sales tax below the current 7 percent.
That candidate would enthusiastically support an increase in the minimum wage, preferably to $10 per hour. The candidate would also strongly support restoring voting rights to felons after they have completed their sentences and strongly believes the state should continue to require children to be vaccinated before attending school.
The candidate would avoid running on any culture war issues. Although the candidate is generally "pro life," the candidate opposes using taxpayer dollars to defend expected court challenges to the "fetal heartbeat" legislation passed by the Legislature in the recently-completed session.
Would that be your "perfect" candidate?
Taken as a whole, it is unlikely that any voter would be in complete agreement with a candidate who relied on the polling to build a campaign.
Every voter has his or her own "deal-breakers" or "must-haves" and while, according to the survey, roads/bridges infrastructure is the biggest issue, only 1 in 4 of those surveyed put it at the top. A pro-life vote might vote against even the most ardent road/bridge advocate if that candidate opposed restricting abortion, for example.
The survey can measure support or opposition, but not passion.
That said, there doesn't appear to be any single issue in this election likely to galvanize the voters.
That doesn't mean there aren't some issues that resonate with voters, though. Spending more on roads/bridges, raising the minimum wage, continuing vaccinations and eliminating or reducing sales tax on groceries all showed support at 69 percent or higher.
Because the survey is weighted toward likely votes -- white, female, Republican, non-college graduates -- the results give candidates some idea of the mind of the electorate. Don't be surprised if some of these issues begin to emerge in campaigns.
That, in itself, makes the survey valuable.
To date, no candidate we are aware of has even mentioned increasing the minimum wage, for example, even though 72 percent of those surveyed support the idea. Likewise, when 69 percent of those surveyed support reducing sales tax on groceries, it's something candidates may find hard to ignore.
If nothing else, it has the potential to lend substance to the campaigns that all too often are rhetoric-heavy and policy-light.
That's the one thing all voters should approve of.
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