Surprise! Iowa GOP’s Legislative Agenda Is Deeply Unpopular

There’s a debate going around in the halls of the Statehouse as legislators reconvenes for the 2018 session: will Republicans pull back on their most ambitious (and unpopular) ideas to try to save their majorities, or do they figure the trifecta is gone anyway after this year, and go all-out while they still have power? A new poll released yesterday made clear that they risk their members’ reelection hopes if they double down on their initial goals for this year.

Progress Iowa released a Public Policy Polling survey of Iowans this week that asked voters about a host of issues that may be on the agenda this year. The results were not encouraging for Republicans.

62% of Iowa voters said believed “public tax dollars should be spent to fund public schools only,” as opposed to 30% who were in favor of private schools and home-schoolers to use public funds.

63% believe IPERS should “remain a pension, guaranteeing benefits to public employees who have paid into the program.”

62% felt the collective bargaining changes made last year should be reversed.

58% said they’d rather tax dollars be spend to fund public services like education and clean water, compared to 35% who would prefer getting a couple hundred dollars back in a tax cut.

57% don’t believe that “corporations and the wealthiest Iowans pay their fair share in taxes.”

And Governor Kim Reynolds’ approval numbers don’t look good either, with only 39% approving of her job performance while 47% disapprove. Interestingly, Donald Trump’s approval numbers are actually higher than her’s in this poll, with Trump at a 44%/51% approve/disapproval. That’s different on both counts from what the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll found a few weeks back. In that survey, 60% of Iowans disapproved of Trump, while 51% approved of Reynolds’ performance.

Whether that’s simply a difference in the way the polls were conducted or a precipitous drop for Reynolds in recent weeks is unclear. The governor hasn’t had much positive press over the last month, with the headlines of the first week of the new year being dominated by a lawsuit over the mismanaged budget.

All of these numbers ought to give Republican legislators’ pause, though whether it does or not is yet to be seen. On the IPERS front, it does sound like Republicans have backed off earlier ideas of restructuring the public worker retiree pension system, which was met with intense backlash when trial balloons on it was floated in the press last year. But they do seem intent on passing through tax cuts and at least bringing up private school funding, while there’s no plans to raise the minimum wage or scale back collective bargaining changes – all positions that are extremely unpopular with the public.

The poll also provides some optimism for Democratic candidates planning to run on many of these issue for this November’s elections. Obviously, some of the questions in the poll are worded in ways that Democrats would present them (they’re also pretty factual), so candidates will have to fight to make sure that’s the way voters see the issues framed.

One other noteworthy result in the poll is the public’s view on minimum wage. Only 16% believe Iowa should keep the minimum wage at $7.25/hour. 28% think it should go up to $9/hour, 32% want $12/hour and 20% are in favor of $15/hour. That’s a very significant portion of the electorate who want to see it lifted, so Republicans’ actions last year to actually reverse minimum wage increases in local counties (as well as their overall refusal to raise the statewide rate) could become a big campaign issue.

The breakdown in what people think the minimum wage should be set at might also be a bit of good news for Fred Hubbell, the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate who hasn’t endorsed $15/hour. A full 60% of voters back either $9/hour or $12/hour, which might be more in line with his range.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 1/10/18

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