Infrastructure Repair Remains Top Policy Priority for Mississippians

Mississippians are calling on political leaders to compromise in order to get things done and have responded favorably to the outcome of the recent special session of the Mississippi Legislature that produced a new state lottery law with funds mainly targeted towards road and bridge repair. Observing the progress made during the special session, voters have rewarded the legislative branch of state government with its highest approval rating in five quarters of polling by Millsaps College and Chism Strategies. Despite the new funding source for infrastructure work, Mississippi voters continue to rate fixing the state’s roads and bridges as the most important policy priority for lawmakers.

The fifth in a series of quarterly surveys, the Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey finds that 64% of voters want their political leaders to compromise and get things done at the expense of sticking to their beliefs, even if little gets done. Voter enthusiasm for political compromise can be seen in the high levels of support for the recently enacted lottery bill that will direct most of the funds raised to repairing roads and bridges, a measure supported by nearly 70% of the Mississippi electorate. Considering the importance of infrastructure to the electorate, 27% of voters say that fixing roads andbridges should be the top priority for the state’s elected leaders. When asked how they would prefer supplementing the eventual infrastructure revenue raised by the lottery, 25% of voters favor repealing recently enacted corporate tax breaks, 14% back building toll roads, 14% favor raising state income tax rates for higher wage earners, 12% back raising the state gas tax, and another 7% favor bringing back a vehicle registration fee.

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“The message from the voters is rather clear: they like what they saw during the specialsession where leaders from across the spectrum came together, compromised, and figured out a way to find a new source of revenue for infrastructure,” said Dr. Nathan Shrader,assistant professor of political science and director of American Studies at MillsapsCollege. “The question is whether the state’s political leaders can continue to demonstrate their ability to work on problems in a way that the voters perceive to be constructive and beneficial to the entire state. Although they still aren’t extremely popular with the voters, the Mississippi Legislature saw a 10-point improvement in its approval rating since July. That is a significant improvement, likely driven by voters who were glad to see them break through the gridlock at the Capitol.”

Other key findings from the Millsaps College-Chism Strategies State of the State Survey:

Voter Enthusiasm, Trust in Government, Civility in Politics

  • Only 50% of Mississippi voters are enthusiastic about voting in the upcoming November midterm elections while 43% are either somewhat enthusiastic or not enthusiastic at all.
  • Voters are split on which level of government they find the most capable and trustworthy of solving problems. 28% of Mississippians find state government the most capable and trustworthy, 28% believe the same of local government, and 19% think this way of the federal government.
  • 62% of voters say that the level of civility in national politics is getting worse, compared to 39% who say that the level of civility in Mississippi politics is worsening.

Elected Official Ratings

  • 50% of voters approve of Governor Phil Bryant, while 34% disapprove.
  • 37% approve of Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, while 32% disapprove.
  • Attorney General Jim Hood has a 50% approval rating, while 27% disapprove of him.
  • State Auditor Shad White remains largely unknown, as 58% are unsure of him. 27% approve of White, while 15% disapprove.
  • State Representative Jay Hughes—a declared candidate for lieutenant governor in 2019—has an approval rating of 26%. 16% disapprove of Hughes, while 58% are unsure.
  • President Donald J. Trump’s approval rating in Mississippi is 51%, with 43% disapproving of him.
  • 32% approve of the Mississippi Legislature, while 34% disapprove. This represents a 10% increase in approval since the July 2018 State of the State Survey.

Policy Priorities

  • 27% say that fixing the state’s roads and bridges should be the top priority for state officials. This is the fifth consecutive quarter in which this has ranked as the top policy priority for Mississippi voters.
  • More funding for public schools (20%) and making healthcare more affordable and accessible (18%) were the second and third highest ranking policy priorities.

“We are pleased to continue this survey series with Millsaps,” said Brad Chism, president of Chism Strategies. “The College is making a positive impact on public policydiscussions in Mississippi. Elected leaders have a much clearer picture of what the votersactually want.”

The survey was conducted September 15-16. The sample size of 640 with 65% of interviews conducted via landline and 35% via cell phone. The survey has a Margin of Error of +/-3.86 %. Results were weighted to reflect likely 2018 general election turnout for age, race, gender, and partisanship.