Red flags for school levy proponents show up in polling

Nov 8, 2011 by



With his life and business partner Diane Traxler, Bill Morris has been involved in some 400 referenda campaigns. As principals in the 28-year-old market research concern Decision Resources, the couple fields a small army of pollsters and other data collectors whose gleanings help them counsel municipalities, school districts and others about the intersection between public policy and public opinion.

Their job is never simple, but lately it’s been especially challenging. Tomorrow a record 113 communities [PDF] will vote on whether to renew or extend their school levies, the extra dollars property owners agree to tax themselves to support local education.

Once upon a time, referendum dollars were used for big, capital projects and other onetime expenditures that schools were better off borrowing than budgeting for. And voters in wealthy districts have typically been willing to pony up a little more to support those great schools that in turn support property values.

This year, though, district officials are describing the referenda as survival levies, and warning about the funding precipice a no vote will create. At the same time, GOP state lawmakers have taken the unprecedented step of urging voters to reject the levy requests, arguing controversially that schools got new money in the last legislative session.

MinnPost recently happened across a poll [PowerPoint] conducted by Morris and Traxler that contained some red flags for levy proponents. The numbers themselves speak volumes, but we wanted to hear what the veteran pollsters themselves saw in them.

Even though it’s the 11th hour for Decision Resources, Morris took time last week to talk about tomorrow’s election. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

MinnPost: What could happen Tuesday and why?

Bill Morris: It’s really turbulent out there right now. Let’s talk about the referendum atmosphere. There are two trends going on. What we’re finding everywhere is first, the economy is having a dampening effect. That should be no surprise.

Usually, in terms of opposition versus support, people 55 and older tend to go against referenda. Under-55-year-olds tend to go for it. The 65-year-olds and over are going against it, 55-45.

via MinnPost – Red flags for school levy proponents show up in polling.

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