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Mississippi Voters: Protect Public Education Dollars During State Budget Shortfall

Voters Consider Options for Raising New Revenue; Presidential Race Now in Single Digits

June 17, 2020

Mississippi voters would like lawmakers and state leaders to safeguard public education dollars in the face of a massive state budget shortfall that may amount to as much as $800 million this fiscal year. Voters also recommend considering raising income taxes on the wealthiest Mississippians and repealing corporate tax cuts enacted in recent legislative sessions to help raise additional state revenue.

Over a third of respondents (34%) to the Summer 2020 Millsaps College-Chism Strategies State of the State Survey say protecting K-12 tax dollars should take precedent over other financial areas such hospitals and healthcare, corrections, infrastructure, higher education, corrections, agriculture, economic development and public safety. About a quarter of all voters say they prefer raising income taxes on the wealthiest Mississippians to help account for the shortage of revenue due in part to the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking at national politics, the presidential race in Mississippi is now a single-digit contest with President Donald J. Trump leading former Vice President Joe Biden by nine points, down from 11 points last quarter. Trump currently sits at 50% and Biden stands at 41%, with 6% saying they will back someone else and 3% unsure. Biden has made gains over the past two months among those who previously reported to be undecided, a large shift in his favor among 18-34-year-old voters, those with less than a high school education and four-year college graduates.

"We are currently living in an interesting and exciting time in American and Mississippi politics, despite all of the immense challenges and fears we face," said Dr. Nathan R. Shrader, chair of the Department of Government and Politics and director of American Studies at Millsaps College. "Mississippi voters want to protect K-12 dollars from cuts during the looming budget shortfall, but they are also split on whether the state is moving too quickly to come back after the initial shutdowns and if it is safe to send students back to school in the fall semester. We also have a tightening presidential race in our midst, as confirmed by our twelfth quarterly State of the State Survey."

Other Key Findings:

  • 43% believe the state is heading in the right direction while 34% say we are heading in the wrong direction. Nearly a quarter are unsure.
  • Over 50% of voters approve of the job performance of Governor Tate Reeves while 28% disapprove. Just 20% are undecided due to not having enough information.
  • Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann enjoys 44% approval by voters and 20% disapproval. 36% lack enough information to decide.
  • A plurality of voters (39%) say they don't have enough information to rate the performance of Attorney General Lynn Fitch. 34% approve of her job thus far while 27% disapprove.
  • The State Legislature is still under water with voters, as 42% disapprove of their work and just 26% approve. 31% lack information to make a decision about their performance.
  • 38% say that Mississippi is moving to "reopen" at the right pace in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 35% believe the state is moving too quickly while 18% say things are moving too slowly.
  • A plurality of 36% say it is safe to send students back to elementary, middle and high schools this fall while 30% believe it to be unsafe. Another 34% remain uncertain.
  • Voters are divided on lines of partisanship and ideology regarding whether President Trump should deploy troops to states to control protests over the murder of Minnesotan George Floyd while in police custody. 38% think that the president should only send troops to Mississippi after a request from Governor Reeves, 34% believe the president should never send troops to states over protests and 28% think he should send troops wherever he feels it is necessary.
  • 57% of Mississippi voters identify as conservatives (33% conservative, 24% very conservative), 27% report to be moderate and 16% are liberal (10% liberal, 6% very liberal).

"These are uncertain times and having reliable survey research data to measure public opinion has never been more important as our elected officials consider policy options," said Brad Chism, president of Chism Strategies. "We salute Millsaps College for its commitment to a more informed public discourse in Mississippi."

The survey was conducted from June 2-4, 2020 with a sample size of 568, with 53% of interviews conducted via cell phone and 47% via landline. The survey has a Margin of Error of +/4.1%. Results were weighted to reflect voter turnout for the 2020 Mississippi elections.

Read the full report here.