Poll: More than 2-to-1 support for eliminating personal income tax

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,575 views 

Arkansans would easily support eliminating the state personal income tax, even if it meant increasing other taxes or cutting state services, according to a new statewide poll.

The final questions from the latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 916 likely Arkansas voters were released Sunday (Oct. 3). Respondents were asked:

Q. Generally speaking, do you support or oppose the elimination of personal income taxes in Arkansas?

54% Support
25.5% Oppose
20.5% Don’t Know

Q. (For those who support or don’t know) Would you support eliminating personal income taxes in Arkansas if you knew that, to make up lost revenue, elected officials would likely have to increase other taxes such as business and sales taxes, cut state services, or both?

49% Support
30% Oppose
21% Don’t know

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican candidate for Arkansas governor, said she wants to push a ballot initiative to eliminate the state income tax by 2030. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has been lowering income taxes during his two terms in office. Hutchinson and the state legislature are working on a plan to drop the top income tax rate from 5.9% to 5.5% or lower. Eliminating the state income tax would cut nearly half of the state’s current general revenues.

“There are many paths to eliminating the state’s income tax and clearly public opinion leans towards this objective. The question really comes down to whether public officials advocating for this will do so in a responsible manner to continue to provide essential services such as public safety, education and health care for those in need,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief.

Talk Business & Politics seeks bipartisan input in the construction and analysis of its polls.

Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, is active in Democratic Party politics and helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“Arkansas voters are inherently attracted to the concept of the elimination of the income tax in the state. A majority of voters (54%) are drawn to an idea that several Arkansas governmental leaders have put forward as a goal for the coming decade; only one in four voters oppose the notion from the get-go.

“It is also popular across demographic groups. However, there is some meaningful variation across age groups with middle-aged voters most supportive and younger voters most dubious about the idea. In addition, there is a 10-point gender gap expressed on the income tax elimination with women less likely to support the concept. Democrats are, unsurprisingly, most opposed to the tax elimination, but—even with this group—about one in three support it.

“The elimination of the income tax would have major implications for the state budget. While proponents argue that the reduction would mostly be met by enhanced economic growth, most agree that some elimination of services and/or some shift to other taxes as the source of state revenues would be required.

“We then followed up the initial question by asking supporters of the tax elimination if they would rethink their view considering the other tax and spending changes that would be required. Just at half of the supporters of the tax elimination hung tough in their support, but the other half became either opponents (30% of initial supporters) or didn’t know their final stance on the policy change (21% of initial supporters).

“This means that the framing of the public debate over the tax elimination could have major ramifications for the ultimate outcome on it either at the ballot box (if a petition campaign was the source of the change) or in the legislative arena. The subgroups of voters most likely to shift their views with the potential implications laid out were women, voters of color, and Democrats. Other groups were more likely to remain firm in their support for income tax elimination.”

Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group, which works with Republican political candidates, also helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“With two states on our borders – Texas and Tennessee – with no personal income tax, the idea of eliminating Arkansas’ personal income tax has often been an idea put forward to make Arkansas more competitive. The idea has gained traction among candidates and elected officials including Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and members of the legislature, and it has become a high profile campaign talking point for many.

“According to our survey, 54% of Arkansans would support the elimination of the personal income tax with 25% opposing it and 20% undecided. That support extends to a majority of white voters (55%) and a plurality of black voters (46%). Republicans and independents view the issue similarly with 67% of Republicans and 59% of Independents supportive of elimination of the income tax, demonstrating why this issue has been championed so much by right-of-center candidates. While nearly half (47%) of Democrats oppose eliminating the income tax, the 31% that would support it are not insignificant.

“Of course, the personal income tax represents a significant portion of Arkansas’ annual tax collection. In the 2021 fiscal year, personal income taxes accounted for $3.97 billion of the overall $8.12 billion in gross collections. Completely eliminating the personal income tax would necessitate dramatic reductions in state spending, increased tax revenue from other sources, or a combination of both. It’s worth noting here that the state continues to operate ahead of forecast resulting in repeated fiscal surpluses, therefore some tax reduction is possible without these consequences. As such, our survey questioned those who supported eliminating personal income taxes, as well as those who were undecided, as to whether they would support it knowing that one or both of those outcomes would be needed. 49% of that subgroup would still support personal income tax elimination in the face of spending cuts or other tax increases, while 30% would oppose it.

“As potential consequences were outlined, the most visible drops in support occurred among older voters, black voters, and women.

“When these questions are taken together, the data suggests that 37% of voters overall would support elimination of personal income taxes despite the spending or other tax consequences that would be required. For proponents, the numbers suggest there is a solid base of support to build momentum around. However, with initial support dropping after potential consequences are outlined, opponents clearly also have messaging that is effective in moving the needle their direction.”

You can watch analysis from Coon and Barth on all of this week’s polling results in the video at the end of this story.

A breakdown of the methodology and demographics of this poll’s results can be found at the bottom of this post.

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College. A link back to this specific story is also required for any digital or online usage by other media outlets.

For interviews, contact Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock by email at [email protected].