Coronavirus, the Economy, and Taxes: An Alaska Opinion Survey

On June 11, 2020, I gave the following presentation on Alaska opinion survey results. Click here to open the PDF in a new tab.

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Here are the highlights:

  • A hugely significant number of Alaskans have faced financial hardship due to coronavirus, at 42%. Of the 28% of survey participants who own or manage a business, 44% say coronavirus and related shutdowns have impacted the long-term viability of their businesses. Of that 44%, 2% have already permanently closed their doors, and another 22% say they are likely to close. As a percentage of all business owners, including those who have not been impacted by coronavirus, only 1% has already closed; another 9% expect to close.
  • Since March, the number of Alaskans who think the coronavirus is blown out of proportion has almost doubled, but nearly two thirds of Alaskans still consider it a real threat as of late May.  Since March, we’ve gone from 80% believing the worst is yet to come to just 38%, with corresponding trends in the growth of respondents who think the worst is behind us or its not likely to be a problem at all. While concern for becoming ill has lessened, 55% are still very or somewhat worried about themselves or a family member catching coronavirus.
  • Back in March, 54% of respondents said that the state would not go far enough in responding to the coronavirus, which has held steady through May. A significant number of respondents remain unsure. There has been a HUGE change in Alaskans’ opinions on whether to reopen the state from just April to May, with most now in support of removing the mandates.
  • Alaskans are ready to see their friends and family again, but they’re still hesitant on many activities, from dining out to seeing a movie. Additionally, 87% of Alaskans believe that lawmakers should continue to make progress on state policy, rather than delaying work on other issues until the virus crisis is over.
  • Nearly one fourth of respondents have recently considered moving out of Alaska, but that number is heavily influenced by those who self identify as “very liberal.” We asked respondents what has impacted their consideration to move: of the 23% who said they had considered moving, 16% said low oil prices, 12% said lasting impact of coronavirus shutdowns, and 9% said effective cancellation of the tourism season impacted their thinking.
  • As of May, nearly half of survey respondents ranked Alaska’s economy “not too good,” and another 24% said “pretty bad.” But when looking at the comparison over the past years, February 2020 was the most confident Alaskans had been in 5 years. In fact, it’s the only time more respondents said the economy was “good” than “not good.” Then there was a huge drop off in May, after the economic shutdown.
  • Nearly two thirds of respondents said they have not been personally impacted by the effects of low oil prices. Of the 34% who said they have, 8% have lost their jobs, 25% have had pay or hours cut, and 45% have had a family member lose their job or take a pay cut. Nearly half (47%) of the survey respondents living in the Interior said they were affected.
  • Just over one third of respondents believe that cuts to services and spending should be the primary solution to resolve the state budget situation, and another third think that the primary solution should be generating revenue. However, two thirds of Alaskans support making cuts to spending generally. Most Alaskans are open to increasing taxes on themselves in the form of a sales tax, but a majority is opposed to introducing an income tax.
  • When we look at the breakdown by ideology for support and opposition to state spending cuts, both the very conservative and somewhat conservative respondents are largely in favor cuts. Very liberal respondents are the most opposed, with nearly half being strongly opposed. But, nearly a quarter of very liberal respondents and a third of somewhat liberal respondents still support spending cuts. A majority of Alaskans in all regions support spending cuts, with Southcentral and the Interior with the most support at 76% and 75%, respectively, and Rural with the least support at 55%.
  • Over half of respondents support introducing a state sales tax, and the only region with less than 50% support is the Interior. However, when broken down by ideology, no group “strongly supports” the introduction of a sales tax at more than a quarter of respondents.
  • A majority of Alaskans are against the introduction of a state personal income tax, but those in favor still see a significant total amount of support, at 43%. The very liberal and those from Southeast support an income tax the most, and the very conservative and those from Southcentral are the most opposed.