As Garden State residents prepare for winter driving conditions, they’re still likely to encounter roads and bridges in continued need of repair, having been ravaged by time, the elements, and insufficient funding. One proposal for addressing our state’s infrastructure needs involves raising the gas tax, which is currently among the lowest in the nation (14.5 cents per gallon). The most recent statewide survey of adults from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that support for raising the gas tax has increased slightly since January, but so too have doubts that any money raised would be used for its intended purpose.
Sixty-two percent say they are opposed to raising the gas tax for road and bridge repairs, with 36 percent in favor. In January 2015, 28 percent were in favor with 68 percent opposed. Currently, Democrats (46%) are significantly more in favor of an increase relative to independents (29%) and Republicans (27%). Younger residents are also more supportive of an increase, with almost half (46%) of those under age 35 giving a green light to the added tax. Attitudes toward an increase are unaffected by how much a respondent drives each day.
“The needle seems to be moving toward support for a bump, perhaps because an increase is easier to stomach when gas prices are hovering around $2.50 a gallon, with some areas enjoying prices beneath $2 a gallon. But, there’s still a long way to go in convincing the public to agree to pay more at the pump,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science.
Among those who said they are opposed to an increase, almost half (48%) believe taxes are too high already, with another 39 percent who just don’t believe politicians will use the money for infrastructure improvements. In January 2015, 31 percent said they rejected a tax increase due to suspicions over where their taxes would ultimately go.
In a new question, PublicMind asked those who said their opposition to an increase stem from the distrust they feel for politicians if they would change their minds given a constitutional mandate that revenue be dedicated for road and bridge repairs. Of those, 36 percent said they would approve an increase, with a sizable majority (61%) remaining firm in their opposition.
“The broken trust that exists between policy makers and the public seems to be an underlying factor in any policy discussion. As much as residents complain about and recognize the need to fix our roads and bridges, it’s hard to move forward when so many believe a chasm separates what politicians say versus what they do. So, the state remains paralyzed by an inability to move forward, with motorists paying more for car repairs, and public transportation users paying more to ride trains and busses,” said Jenkins.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind survey was conducted by landline and cellular telephone November 9-15, 2015 among a random statewide sample of 906 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.8 points, including the design effect.