By the numbers

Could it be that most area residents are more worried about sprawl and education than an increase in the sales tax?

A poll conducted for the Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger last week reveals an interesting snapshot of public opinion regarding the Nov. 5 referendum to raise the sales tax a half penny to pay for transportation improvements.

The poll, which carries a plus or minus 5 percent margin of error, was conducted by Media General Research and asked residents of Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park a number of questions relating to the sales tax issue.

The primary question asked residents if they intended to vote for the half cent sales tax increase for transportation.

46 percent said they supported the increase.

38 percent said they were against it.

16 percent said they were undecided.

The poll revealed that while those favoring the referendum do not form the majority, they do outnumber those opposing the tax vote. The key, however, will be the fence sitters who are undecided. This means there’s still a lot of votes up for grabs. That is, unless these folks just don’t bother to vote.

With sales taxes on most people’s minds, we decided to throw a hypothetical at those polled. Since there was an aggressive push to place an additional referendum question on the ballot consisting of an extra half cent for public schools, we asked those polled how they would vote if that item appeared on next year’s ballot.

56 percent said they would vote for the increase.

25 percent said they would not.

19 percent were undecided.

That’s quite interesting to say the least.

Those in favor of yet another half penny added to the sales tax for education jumped by 10 percent. Where did the extra 10 percent come from? Of course, skeptics will say that this particular referendum will never find its way on the ballot in 2003 and some polled may not have put too much thought into the question.

The answer may come from examining the opposition to this year’s sales tax referendum. There’s a solid legion of voters who object to the referendum based on opposition to increased taxation. Another segment of the opposition makes a strong argument that money for more roads will induce more sprawl.

It appears that some of those opposing the sales tax for roads don’t mind being taxed for additional school funding. Then again, that’s not news here in the Prince William/Manassas area. Residents hate sprawl mainly because it places stress on our school system.

With anti-tax forces fighting hard to defeat this year’s sales tax referendum, it appears they may lose at least a portion of their allies if the same question comes up next year for education.

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