Poll: Pennsylvanians Support Severance Tax, Depending on the Conditions

Gas-Drill-FrackingPennsylvanians support a severance tax on natural gas drillers, or they don’t, depending on how you ask the question.

Recent polls have shown that a majority of Pennsylvanians support an extraction tax on the Marcellus Shale gas companies. However, a poll by Anderson Robbins Research shows that Pennsylvanians would not support a severance tax if it killed jobs or went to fund pension plans for public employees.

According to the Patriot-News, the survey was commissioned by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an organization that advocates for natural gas production.

The Anderson Robbins Research survey found that 55% of Pennsylvania voters support a severance tax while 34% oppose it. In a partisan breakdown, 70% of Democrats, 59% of Independents, and 38% of Republicans favor an extraction tax.

When asked, though, if they would still support a severance tax if it meant jobs moving out of the commonwealth, only 33% of those who responded supported the severance tax and 58% opposed it.

This was the wording used by the pollsters for the question: “Would you support raising taxes on Pennsylvania natural gas producers even if it results in jobs leaving the state and Pennsylvania residents losing their jobs?”

The question seems to lead responders to be against the extraction tax because it links the tax to job loss in Pennsylvania.

In addition, the pollsters asked whether the respondents would still support the severance tax if the money went to pay for pension funds for public-sector employees. 57% opposed the tax and only 36% supported the tax under these conditions.

The budget season is underway in Harrisburg, and, rather accordingly, those polled were asked “to choose between creating new jobs in the natural gas industry for Pennsylvania residents or higher taxes and fees on natural gas producers to fund the state budget”. 61% went with creating new jobs over severance tax money going to fund the state budget. Even 51% of Democrats, who overwhelmingly support implementing a severance tax, picked new jobs over higher taxes on the gas companies.

Again, both of these questions appear to be pushing respondents to oppose the severance tax by basing their queries on assumptions about potential negative side effects of such a tax.

Finally, respondents were asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate that “encouraged the growth of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.” Sixty-four percent, including 54% of Democrats, said they were more likely to vote for a politician who supports the growth of the Marcellus Shale gas industry.

Obviously, given the fact that the Marcellus Shale Coalition commissioned this poll the results should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

Nevertheless the results of this survey can still be an important tool for Gov. Tom Corbett and other Republicans running against a severance tax in their campaigns.

502 Pennsylvanians were surveyed over the phone for this poll by Anderson Robbins Research from June 6th to June 8th. The margin of error is plus-minus 4.4%.

June 11th, 2014 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Top Stories | 6 Comments

6 thoughts on “Poll: Pennsylvanians Support Severance Tax, Depending on the Conditions”

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  2. Nimbus says:

    The reality is, companies are in the business to make money. This is not endemic to any one industry; it’s a fact of all businesses- big and small. In the case of natural gas development, many of them are mobile with the ability to operate on a global scale. Considering there are shale plays literally all over the world with many across the United States, it stands to reason that companies will go where they can profit the most. If that’s PA, they will stay here. However, if we tax the one industry creating jobs in the state to the point where we are no longer the most competitive game in town (and by town, we’re talking globally, of course), they will allocate capital elsewhere. Most likely not a full-scale pick up and leave, but they’ll balance out where they allocate their capital so they can make the best returns on their investments. Once again, that’s business.

  3. Ed H. says:

    The question of jobs leaving Pennsylvania if an extraction tax was enacted is a red herring. The gas isn’t ever going to leave Pennsylvania until it’s extracted. And a tax would help solve much of the funding issues Tom Corbett and Republicans have caused by enacting tax cuts that haven’t created jobs, but have created larger deficits.

  4. Nimbus says:

    As it turns out, people expect their government to grow the economy and not put its inability to solve the pension problem on the backs of working Pennsylvanians. Quite a novel concept.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Noone asked the question if a severance tax would be supported if all the revenues raised from the severance tax were directed towards education

  6. Mike Johnson says:

    So a push-poll with a small sample size, paid for by the natural gas industry, and it still found that Pennsylvanians support an extraction tax by a 20-point margin… next.

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