Public Opinion On 15 Controversial and Divisive Issues

    NEW YORK , N.Y. -October 4, 2011 – A new Harris Poll asks the public whether they support or oppose 15 issues that are often politically divisive. The largest majorities are those who support cutting government spending (87%), increased educational spending (81%), deporting more illegal aliens (76%), stricter environmental protection (75%), and no tax increases (74%). The issues on which the public is most evenly split are same sex marriage (51% support), the recent health care reform (53% oppose), cutting defense spending (54% support), and stricter gun control (56% support).

    A comparison of the attitudes of Republicans and Democrats, finds the widest differences (i.e. the greatest polarization) on the recent health care reform bill (supported by 78% of Democrats but only 16% of Republicans), same sex marriage (supported by 66% of Democrats and 24% of Republicans), cutting defense spending (supported by 70% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans), and stricter environmental protection (supported by 90% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans).

    When asked which two of these would be most likely to influence how people will vote, the issues that topped the list were cutting government spending (38%), no tax increases (26%) and the recent health care reform bill (26%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,462 adults surveyed online between September 12 and 19, 2011.

    What issues are most important to Republicans?

    The largest majorities of Republicans favor cutting government spending (95%), deporting more illegal aliens (90%), less government regulation (89%), no tax increases (88%), off-shore drilling (87%), prayer in school (86%), and reducing immigration (82%).

    When asked which two of these issues would be most important when deciding whom to vote for, the largest numbers of Republicans mentioned cutting government spending (51%), no tax increases (30%), the recent health care reform bill (24%), less government regulation (20%) and deporting more illegal aliens (19%).

    What issues are most important to Democrats?

    The largest majorities of Democrats support increased educational spending (91%), stricter environmental protection (90%), embryonic stem cell research (85%), abortion rights (79%) and the recent health care reform bill (78%).

    In terms of voting, the issues that are most important to Democrats are the health care reform bill (29%), increased educational spending (27%), no tax increases (26%) and cutting government spending (23%).

    What issues are most important to Tea-Party supporters?

    The opinions of Tea-Party supporters are similar to those of Republicans but the numbers are higher. Almost all Tea Party supporters favor cutting government spending (97%), deporting more illegal aliens (91%), less government regulation (90%), no tax increases (90%), off shore drilling (86%) prayer in school (85%) and they oppose the health care reform bill (85%).

    The issues they care most about, when it comes to voting: cutting government spending (51%), no tax increases (31%), the health care reform bill (27%) and less government regulation (22%).

    What Republican issues attract many Democratic supporters?

    The poll reveals several issues where the traditional conservative and Republican positions appeal to most Democrats – cutting government spending (76%), no tax increases (63%), deporting more illegal aliens (62%), reducing immigration (60%), less government regulation (57%), prayer in schools (57%) and off-shore drilling (52%).

    What Democratic issues attract many Republican supporters?

    There are fewer traditional liberal or Democratic issues that appeal to most Republicans, although a few are: increased educational spending (71%), embryonic stem cell research (56%) and stricter environmental protection (56%).

    Where do Independents stand on these issues?

    Independents are split on these issues. On eight of the listed issues a majority of Independents favor the Conservative position – 92% favor cutting government spending, 80% favor deporting more illegal aliens and 73% favor no tax increases. But on seven of the issues majorities of Independents favor the Liberal positions – 80% favor increased educational spending, 79% favor embryonic stem cell research and 77% favor stricter environmental protection.

    So what?

    This Harris Poll identifies many issues that can, and surely will, be hotly debated in both the Republican primary elections and in the general election. The views of Tea Party supporters will surely have a big impact on the Republican nomination. And, both parties will use some of these issues to attract Independents and swing voters.

     

    TABLE 1

    SUPPORT OR OPPOSE POLITICAL POSITIONS

    Please indicate how strongly you support or oppose the issues listed below.

    Base: All adults

     

    Support (NET)

    Strongly support

    Somewhat support

    Oppose (NET)

    Somewhat oppose

    Strongly oppose

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Cutting government spending

    87

    58

    30

    13

    9

    4

    Increased educational spending

    81

    42

    39

    19

    12

    6

    Deporting more illegal aliens

    76

    50

    26

    24

    17

    7

    Stricter environmental protection

    75

    31

    43

    25

    17

    8

    Embryonic stem-cell research

    74

    35

    38

    26

    13

    13

    No tax increases

    74

    47

    28

    26

    16

    10

    Reducing immigration

    72

    42

    31

    28

    20

    7

    Less government regulation

    71

    34

    37

    29

    21

    7

    Prayer in school

    69

    43

    27

    31

    14

    17

    Off-shore drilling

    67

    27

    41

    33

    19

    14

    Abortion rights

    64

    34

    29

    36

    15

    22

    Stricter gun control

    56

    30

    26

    44

    21

    23

    Cutting defense spending

    54

    21

    34

    46

    25

    20

    Same-sex marriage

    51

    28

    24

    49

    15

    33

    The recent Healthcare Reform Bill

    47

    18

    29

    53

    19

    34

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2

    THOSE WHO SUPPORT CONSERVATIVE POSITIONS – BY PARTY

    Please indicate how strongly you support or oppose the issues listed below.

    Summary of those saying they support or oppose various issues

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Tea Party supporters

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Support Cutting government spending

    87

    95

    76

    92

    97

    Support Deporting more illegal aliens

    76

    90

    62

    80

    91

    Support No tax increases

    74

    88

    63

    73

    90

    Support Reducing immigration

    72

    82

    60

    76

    82

    Support Less government regulation

    71

    89

    57

    70

    90

    Support Prayer in school

    69

    86

    57

    66

    85

    Support Off-shore drilling

    67

    87

    52

    68

    86

    Oppose The recent Healthcare Reform Bill

    53

    84

    22

    55

    85

    Oppose Same-sex marriage

    49

    76

    34

    40

    73

    Oppose Cutting defense spending

    46

    70

    30

    39

    65

    Oppose Stricter gun control

    44

    66

    26

    46

    70

    Oppose Abortion rights

    36

    55

    21

    35

    55

    Oppose Embryonic stem-cell research

    26

    44

    15

    21

    40

    Oppose Stricter environmental protection

    25

    46

    10

    23

    51

    Oppose Increased educational spending

    19

    29

    9

    20

    35

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3

    THOSE WHO SUPPORT LIBERAL POSITIONS – BY PARTY

    Please indicate how strongly you support or oppose the issues listed below.

    Summary of those saying they support or oppose various issues

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Tea Party supporters

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Support Increased educational spending

    81

    71

    91

    80

    65

    Support Stricter environmental protection

    75

    54

    90

    77

    49

    Support Embryonic stem-cell research

    74

    56

    85

    79

    60

    Support Abortion rights

    64

    45

    79

    65

    45

    Support Stricter gun control

    56

    34

    74

    54

    30

    Support Cutting defense spending

    54

    30

    70

    61

    35

    Support Same-sex marriage

    51

    24

    66

    60

    27

    Support The recent Healthcare Reform Bill

    47

    16

    78

    45

    15

    Oppose Off-shore drilling

    33

    13

    48

    32

    14

    Oppose Prayer in school

    31

    14

    43

    34

    15

    Oppose Less government regulation

    29

    11

    43

    30

    10

    Oppose Reducing immigration

    28

    18

    40

    24

    18

    Oppose No tax increases

    26

    12

    37

    27

    10

    Oppose Deporting more illegal aliens

    24

    10

    38

    20

    9

    Oppose Cutting government spending

    13

    5

    24

    8

    3

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 4

    VOTING ISSUES

    Now while all may be important issues, please choose the two issues that are most important to you when voting for a candidate.

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Tea Party supporters

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Cutting government spending

    38

    51

    23

    41

    51

    No tax increases

    26

    30

    26

    23

    31

    The recent Healthcare Reform Bill

    26

    24

    29

    27

    27

    Increased educational spending

    19

    11

    27

    19

    8

    Deporting more illegal aliens

    15

    19

    11

    14

    18

    Less government regulation

    13

    20

    7

    15

    22

    Cutting defense spending

    9

    4

    11

    12

    4

    Abortion rights

    9

    7

    11

    8

    6

    Same-sex marriage

    8

    7

    11

    7

    5

    Reducing immigration

    8

    10

    7

    8

    10

    Stricter environmental protection

    8

    3

    11

    8

    2

    Prayer in school

    6

    7

    9

    2

    5

    Stricter gun control

    5

    3

    7

    6

    2

    Embryonic stem-cell research

    4

    2

    7

    4

    1

    Off-shore drilling

    3

    4

    2

    3

    5

    Note: Up to two responses allowed

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 12 and 19, 2011 among 2,462 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J40805

    Q855, 860

    The Harris Poll® #104, October 4, 2011

    By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman The Harris Poll