Poll: Granite Staters divided over tax bill, health care

  • Copies of the Finance Committee Markup are placed for each member of the Senate Finance Committee before the start of the hearing as the tax-writing panel begins work on overhauling the nation’s tax code on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 13, 2017. The legislation in the House and Senate carries high political stakes for President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress, who view passage of tax cuts as critical to the GOP’s success at the polls next year. AP file

For the Monitor
Friday, November 24, 2017

Granite Staters are divided on the Republican-backed tax plans making their way through Congress, according to a University of New Hampshire public opinion survey.

The latest Granite State Poll indicates that most people were happy federal lawmakers failed earlier this autumn to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which is more commonly known as Obamacare; they care about voter fraud, but don’t think it’s a problem here; and they favor border patrol checkpoints in the state, but not a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

The GOP tax bill narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives last Thursday, with a handful of Republicans joining all of the chamber’s minority Democrats in opposing the measure.

A different version of the bill, crafted by GOP senators, is currently making its way through the U.S. Senate. That plan would permanently lower the corporate tax rate, temporarily lower individual rates across the middle class and would drastically reshape the country’s tax code.

Republicans argue that the plan would benefit the wealthy, the middle class and corporations. Democrats counter that the proposals would hurt most everyone except the well-to-do and large companies.

According to the poll, 43 percent of Granite Staters questioned said they strongly or somewhat oppose the proposals, with 39 percent strongly or somewhat supportive of the plans.

Just like in Washington, there’s a partisan divide in New Hampshire, with 74 percent of self-identified Democrats opposed and 75 percent of self-identified Republicans supportive. By a very slight 44 percent-to-39 percent edge, independents are opposed.

“The partisan divide in support for policy positions in New Hampshire and America is striking,” UNH Survey Center Director Andrew Smith told the Monitor. “Few people in New Hampshire, or even in Congress, know the content of the various tax reform proposals, so they base their support for or opposition to policy based solely on partisanship.”

The poll indicates that 57 percent of Granite Staters back provisions in the tax proposals to increase the current child tax credit and create a new elder/sick care tax credit; 44 percent say they support reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to as few as three; and 39 percent support eliminating the estate tax, with 35 percent saying it’s a bad idea. Just over a third of those questioned say it’s a good idea to lower to corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, with nearly half opposed.

Health care

The partisan divide over the tax legislation is just as visible in the fight over the national health care law. Congressional Republicans this summer and again this autumn failed to follow through on their long-standing pledge to scrap Obamacare.

And that was just fine with nearly 8 in 10 Granite State Democrats, who said they were happy with the failure of Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But more than two-thirds of New Hampshire Republicans said they were unhappy GOP efforts in Congress came up short. Independents, or undeclared voters, were split on the question.

When it comes to what to do next, a quarter of those questioned said the law should be expanded, 23 percent say parts of the law to be repealed, and 26 percent say they want the entire law scrapped.

Some Democrats in Congress are calling for a single-payer Medicare for all health care plans, which is supported by Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Forty-seven percent of those questioned supported the idea, with 4 in 10 opposed.

Voter fraud

In last November’s election, Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 306 to 232 in the all-important Electoral College vote to win the presidency. But he lost the national popular count by nearly 3 million votes to Clinton.

Soon after his victory, Trump claimed, without evidence, “in addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

And he singled out New Hampshire as one of three states with “serious voter fraud.”

Trump lost New Hampshire’s four electoral votes to Clinton by less than 2,800 votes

Many New Hampshire Republicans have long railed against the state’s same-day voter registration law, saying it allows Democrats to game the system. Earlier this year the GOP-dominated state Legislature passed a bill tightening same-day registration rules. That measure was signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu, the state’s first Republican governor in a dozen years.

A Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, created this year by Trump to investigate his allegations of voter fraud, held its second meeting New Hampshire in September .

According to the poll, 54 percent of Granite Staters said voter fraud is a very or somewhat serious problem in the country. But only a third of those questioned said voter fraud is a very or somewhat serious issue in New Hampshire, with 58 percent saying it’s not too serious or serious at all.

When it comes to the new state law that tightens the rules requiring documentation for those registering to vote in New Hampshire within 30 days of an election, 54 percent said they back the new measure.

While there was a partisan fight at the State House over the legislation, Smith said most people don’t see the issue of providing identification to vote in a partisan lens.

“Asking for identification is seen as reasonable way of protecting the integrity of elections,” Smith added.

Illegal immigration

On the controversial topic of illegal immigration, only a third of Granite Staters supported the president’s push to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. More than 6 in 10 opposed the construction of large-scale physical barrier, which Trump repeatedly promised during his campaign for the White House.

But there is broad support for the Border Patrol conducting checkpoints inside New Hampshire to investigate potential drug smuggling and to check on individuals’ immigration status, similar to the highway checkpoint set up in August in Woodstock. Seven in 10 supported such an action, with just 22 percent opposed.

The Granite State Poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center October 26-November 9, with 956 random Granite State adults questioned via telephone by live operators. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.