Minnesota Poll: Margin of support for arts, outdoors amendment slips

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2008 - 6:50 AM

Most voters still favor the measure, but proponents aren't signaling victory - yet.

Minnesotans still favor a constitutional amendment that would raise sales taxes to help fund game, fish, parks and water quality projects and the arts, but the margin has slipped slightly as the election nears, a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll shows.

In a poll of 933 likely voters statewide, conducted over three days ending Oct. 31, the amendment was favored by 53 percent, with 41 percent opposed. The percentages were down from a Star Tribune poll in early October, where 59 percent favored the measure and 32 percent were against it.

"Two days out, it's a good position to be in," said Ken Martin, campaign manager for Vote Yes Minnesota, which has far outspent the amendment's opponents by raising more than $3.7 million to help pass it. "We're obviously encouraged in all of our conversations to date."

Despite the poll's overall results, Martin acknowledged that the amendment's chances may hinge on whether voters who cast ballots on other races Tuesday also vote for the amendment. Those who go to the voting booth -- but do not specifically vote on the amendment -- will be counted as voting no on the proposal. "I think, again, that our challenge is going to be the drop-off," he said.

But the poll showed some other troubling signs for the amendment. Just 37 percent of those identifying themselves as Republicans favor it, and only 43 percent of those earning between $50,000 and $74,999 support it. Though Democrats overwhelmingly favor the amendment, just 51 percent of those identifying themselves as independents support it.

Among age groups, 50 percent of those between 45 and 64 are supporting the measure, and 51 percent of college graduates said they would vote for it. The poll has a margin of sampling error of 4.1 percentage points.

"It's unfortunate that we didn't have a larger budget to counter the millions of dollars they spent on propaganda," said Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, a major opponent of the amendment. "We'll see on Tuesday what the actual thoughts of the voters are on all these races. You can poll, you can poll and you can poll."

The proposal would raise the state sales tax by three-eighths of a percent for 25 years, raising approximately $300 million a year. Of that amount, 33 percent would go to clean water projects, 33 percent would be for game, fish and wildlife habitat endeavors, 19.75 percent would go to arts and culture and 14.25 percent would be for parks and trails.

Should the amendment be adopted, according to the state Department of Revenue, an average Minnesota household would pay $60 a year more in state sales taxes.

"I'm always skeptical when you start adding amendments" to the state constitution, said Mary Jones, a homemaker who lives near Detroit Lakes and opposes the proposal. "I don't think the arts should be involved.

"I just don't know if I want the government to come in and do more government stuff," she added.

But Orlin Mandsager, a retired educator and clergyman from Burnsville, said he supported the amendment because of its commitment to the arts. "I think that the arts are essential to a civilized society," he said. "Taxes are not bad, in and of themselves. We need to pay taxes for what's important to us."

Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388

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