Friday, July 20, 2007

Response to Civitas

Over at Red Clay Citizen, Civitas takes some shots at our polling methodology and some recent polls we have conducted for clients. I’m not going to get into a pissing match calling their polls biased and our polls unbiased. But I will respond to a few specific points they made.

I left in the "press 1 on your keypad" part of the quote to let readers know that Public Policy Polling has no way to verify if their respondents are 5-year-olds, 15-year-olds, much less who they claim they are. But I digress...

Apparently, our respondents have grown from 12-year-olds to now 15-year-olds. I’ve discussed that point here and here. This seems to be the standard complaint from people who don’t like our results. It’s a form of “attack the messenger, instead of the message.”

The most egregious bias in this is that it frames the question in such a way as to suggest any county has EVER ONCE suggested that transfer taxes would be an alternative to property taxes.

That, in fact, is the case in many fast growing counties in North Carolina. In Wake County, for example, school construction needs in the next decade are estimated to cost at least $4.5 billion. That’s just for school construction, which has nothing to do with new teachers and classroom needs, nor does it account for roads, parks or any other infrastructure costs.

Wake County cannot pay for those billions of dollars without raising revenue. Right now, the only option is property taxes, because the state government doesn’t give the county the authority to use the transfer tax, sales tax, or impact fees.

Revenues are going to have to be raised, if not transfer taxes (which is the only other option on the table right now), then it will have to be property tax increases.

The other misleading aspect of this is that it repeats "one-time". But the fact is: you will pay the tax every time you sell your home.

How many times can you sell your home? Only once. Then it’s not yours anymore. You pay property taxes every year.

Here's a comparable question from June's Civitas Poll:

"A transfer tax is a tax assessed against the seller of a home or property at the time of the sale. Do you support a 1 percent transfer tax on homeowners selling their home to help local government pay for the costs associated with growth?"

That’s not the issue before the legislature. The legislature is debating whether to give counties the authority to have a referendum in order to establish a transfer tax. Voters in each county that decides it wants to have a referendum are free to vote no. Right now the legislature won’t let citizens even put it to a vote.

If Wake County decides to have a transfer tax referendum, I'm sure PPP will poll on it. Our polls on elections and referenda have been extremely accurate and fair.


Unknown said...

From Chris Hayes in our comments: "Another complete falsehood in Policy Watch's wording is "one-time."

That is just false.

I own a plot of land, I sell it to a developer. I pay the transfer tax.

The developer puts in water, sewer and roads and divides the property into lots. Then sells those lots to builders. The developer pays the transfer tax again.

The builder constructs a home, sells it to an individual. The builder pays the transfer tax again.

Thus the transfer tax is applied THREE times."

Nevermind that every time someone sells their home, they pay the tax. I was emphasizing the taxed person, not the home.

Curiously, you didn't address all the bias I noted.

Unknown said...

Also, by putting my quote in etals, you took away the spirit I intended alternative. By saying it is an "alternative" to property taxes suggests it would be used instead of. But we both know better. OK, thanks for letting me comment twice, Justin.

Justin Guillory said...


You can comment as many times as you like. I don't screen the comments.

A single property may be assessed a transfer tax multiple times, but it is paid by each entity only once. As opposed to a property tax which is assessed to each entity every year.

As for not addressing all the bias, I didn't really address any of the bias. I said I wasn't going to do that. I just tried to point out where I thought you were being factually incorrect.

We may just have to agree to disagree on the "alternative to property tax" argument. But (using Wake County as an example again) if a transfer tax were ever allowed, the scenario I see is a transfer tax and property tax increase. But the property tax increase would be significantly lower than if there were no transfer tax. So it in effect the transfer tax is an alternative to significantly higher property taxes, IMHO.

Chris said...


Do you admit that with an automated phone poll there is an opportunity and distinct possibility for respondents to misrepresent their true identities?

Justin Guillory said...


I'm not going to admit that 15-year-olds answer our surveys.

It's a possibility, but not a good one. There is no evidence of it for one thing. You can also misrepresent yourself to a live interviewer as well.

That also ignores benefits of automate polls like the reduction of interviewer bias.

In the end we have been very accurate in predicting election outcomes. So for all the flaws you might like to suggest, in the end we get accurate results.

Unknown said...

Justin, you might be right that the tax scenario happens just as you say, and that it's an alternative in your 'sense.' But the whole point of accurate polling is to remove ambiguities that might steer people away from one 'sense' or another.

As for the one time, versus many times - same thing. Every time I sell A HOME, I will pay this tax. And introducing another tax mechanism introduces a new cut to bleed citizens from.

BTW, I think all this is a very important conversation to have. Thanks a lot for hosting it.

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