Legislature Receives Mixed Marks Heading into Election Year
As the 2019 legislative session reaches its conclusion, Mississippi voters are beginning to think about the upcoming August primary and November general elections, which will feature all legislative and state elected offices on the ballot. The April 2019 Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey sought input from voters on issues expected to come into play during the election season.
This latest survey finds some areas of agreement on issues such as raising the minimum wage in Mississippi, the importance of rural hospitals, restoration of voting rights for felons, infrastructure funding, and required vaccinations for children. Meanwhile, voter reaction is considerably more mixed regarding the state’s general direction, the state legislature, abortion legislation, how to fund infrastructure improvements, and the state sales tax on groceries.
Overall, 72 percent of Mississippi voters support raising the state’s minimum wage, which is currently set at the hourly federal minimum of $7.25, while just 24 percent oppose an increase. A plurality of 36 percent back raising it to $10.00 per hour, 19 percent favor $15.00 per hour, and 17 percent want it set at $12.50 per hour. For the seventh consecutive quarter, voters have identified “fixing our state’s roads and bridges” as the top priority for Mississippi leaders, while 79 percent say the state is not spending enough on infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. Mississippians also overwhelmingly back current state laws that require parents to vaccinate their children, with 74 percent favoring such an approach and 18 percent in opposition.
Meanwhile, voters are split regarding the state’s trajectory, with 37 percent believing the state is headed in the right direction and 35 percent saying it is heading in the wrong direction. Just days removed from adjournment, the survey finds that 43 percent disapprove of the state legislature’s job performance, while just 26 percent approve. Voters are slightly more likely to approve of the work being done by their own legislators (42 percent) compared to those who disapprove (38 percent).
“In our seventh quarterly survey, we decided to take the public’s pulse on a number of issues that we believe will prove to be significant in the upcoming August primary election and November general election,” said Dr. Nathan R. Shrader, assistant professor of political science and director of American Studies at Millsaps College. “There certainly appears to be an appetite for reform and change when it comes to raising the minimum wage, restoration of voting rights, the future of the state sales tax applied to groceries, and how to fund infrastructure projects. However, opinions are mixed when it comes to deciding how to best move forward. We also see unflinching support for policies like required vaccinations, the need to spend more on infrastructure improvements, and support for rural hospitals.”
Other key findings from the seventh quarterly Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey include:
- 56 percent say the issue of preserving Mississippi’s rural hospitals will be very important in determining how they will vote in the 2019 state elections, while only 10 percent say it will not be very important.
- 69 percent favor easing the process for restoring voting rights to former felons.
- Over a quarter of voters favor enacting higher tax rates on corporations to fund more transportation infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. Another 19 percent back creating toll roads, 18 percent back raising the state gas tax, and 18 percent also favor increasing income taxes for higher wage earners. Another 21 percent oppose any new funding options.
- 69 percent favor reforming the way Mississippi applies the state sales tax on groceries—one of just three states to apply the full rate to such purchases. 37 percent favor repealing the sales tax on groceries, 32 percent want to continue applying the tax but at a lower rate, and just over 30 percent favor keeping the sales tax in place as it is today.
- 43 percent believe that decisions about abortion should be left to women and their health care providers, 38 percent think the state should spend whatever it takes in court to defend bills that outlaw abortion even though they will likely be struck down, and 20 percent report to being pro-life but feel that defending legislation that is likely unconstitutional is a waste of taxpayer funds.
- Mississippi currently provides for open primary elections, meaning that voters can participate in whichever party’s primary they wish. Over 57 percent oppose changing Mississippi election laws to require party registration; only 20 percent support such a change.
- A plurality of 31 percent are planning to definitely vote for someone else instead of U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith next year, while 23 percent are planning to definitely vote for her. Overall, 40 percent are leaning toward supporting Hyde-Smith for re-election while 46 percent are leaning toward opposing her.
- President Donald J. Trump enjoys an approval rating of 54 percent among Mississippi voters, while 41 percent disapprove of his performance.
“We are happy to work alongside Millsaps to produce these quarterly surveys of public opinion in our state,” said Brad Chism, president of Chism Strategies. “Elected officials would do well to note the will of the people on these many important issues.”
The State of the State Survey involves a partnership between the Millsaps College Political Science Department, the Institute for Civic and Professional Engagement at Millsaps, and Chism Strategies. The survey was conducted on March 21 with a sample size of 773, with 50% of interviews conducted via cell phone and 50% via landline. The survey has a Margin of Error of +/-3.52%. Results were weighted to reflect the likely voter turnout for the 2019 Mississippi elections.