Poll Appears to Show Opposition to Toll Financing for Trump Infrastructure Plan

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Jan. 17 showed the exact opposite result of a Reuters/Ipsos poll released two days later on the financing for President Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure plan. However, the polls took different approaches.

January 26, 2017, 11:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


Bay Bridge Toll

Ann Baldwin / Shutterstock

The headline of The Washington Post article, "Most Americans don’t want new tolls to pay for road and bridge improvements, poll says," only asked one question on infrastructure.

The poll, conducted by telephone Jan. 12-15, 2017, asked respondents how they felt about private companies taking tax credits and allowing them to charge tolls in exchange for building roads and bridges. Furthermore, there was only one infrastructure question among the 46 questions that dealt with presidents Trump, Obama and other issues:

There is a proposal to offer nearly 140 billion dollars in tax cuts for private companies if they pay to build new roads, bridges and transportation projects. The companies then could charge tolls for people to use these roads, bridges and transportation. Do you support or oppose this proposal?

More accurate was how  reported the finding for The Washington Post:

In [the] Washington Post-ABC News poll, 66 percent of those surveyed said they oppose a plan that would grant close to $140 billion in tax credits to investors who put their money into roads, bridges and transit in return for the right to impose tolls.

Why combine the two issues in one question? Why not ask about either tax credits or tolls?

While details of the infrastructure plan have yet to be released, "prior to the election, Donald J. Trump proposed giving private investors an 82 percent tax credit to put money into projects, credits that theoretically would reduce their need to profit from the investment," write Halsey III and Clement.

But even with tax credit incentives, investors are unlikely to put their money into projects that don’t provide a revenue stream, most likely in the form of tolls on roads and bridges.

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The Reuters-Ipsos poll, conducted Dec. 16 – Jan. 12, released Jan. 19, took a different approach. Respondents were asked about three alternative options to finance Trump's infrastructure plan:

Do you agree/disagree with the following:

  1.  I am willing to pay higher taxes to help invest in infrastructure in the U.S. 
    • 39.1% agreed
    • 51.4% disagreed
    •  9.5% unsure
  2. It is ok for the federal government to take on more debt to pay for infrastructure improvements
    • 32.9% agreed
    • 56.1% disagreed
    • 11.0% unsure
  3. I am willing to pay tolls and user-fees to fund infrastructure improvements 
    • 50.1% agreed
    • 41.4% disagreed
    •  8.5% unsure

The result of the simpler and more comprehensive Reuters/Ipsos poll is quite clear: When offered three competing options to finance the trillion dollar infrastructure plan, tolls and user fees are most preferred, followed by higher taxes. The least favorite is debt-financing.

Hat tip to AASHTO Journal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 in The Washington Post

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