Kati Capozzi, president and CEO of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, gives a presentation to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce on July 17, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Kati Capozzi, president and CEO of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, gives a presentation to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce on July 17, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Public opinion divided on state economy, policy

Annual survey questioned residents on Alaska issues

At this week’s Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, President and CEO of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce Kati Capozzi gave a presentation on the results of the Alaska Chamber’s annual Public Opinion Survey. Capozzi has been traveling the state and sharing the survey results with local chambers of commerce, and on Wednesday she came to Kenai to highlight where public opinion is on a number of issues including resource development projects and the constitutional amendments proposed by the governor earlier this year.

The survey was taken from March 27-31 and polled 705 likely voters statewide. Sixty percent of respondents were contacted via landline, while 40% were contacted by cellphone. The geographic representation was weighted based on population, and respondents from Southcentral Alaska — which includes the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Matanuska-Susitna borough and the Valdez-Cordova borough — accounted for one quarter of the total respondents.

The full survey can be found on the Alaska Chamber website. Below are some of the major takeaways from the results:

Economy

When asked to rate Alaska’s current economy on a general level, 43% of those surveyed responded “good” while 40% responded “not too good.” Only 4% of respondents rated Alaska’s economy as “very good” and 12% rated it as “pretty bad.” Compared with 2018 results for the same question, the percent of positive responses went up, from 38% to 47%, while negative responses went from 61% to 52%. A majority of Republicans (61%) responded with a positive view of the current economy, while a small majority of Democrats (52%) responded negatively. People who have lived in Alaska for more than 20 years had a more negative view of the economy than those who have lived here for fewer than 10 years, with 55% of 20-year residents responding negatively and 65% of newer residents responding positively.

When asked if the state of Alaska is headed in the right direction, 30% of those surveyed said that the state is headed in the right direction, while 64% said the state is on the wrong track. A majority of all demographic categories responded negatively to this question with the exception of those who identified as Republican. Fifty one percent of Republicans say the state is headed in the right direction, compared with only 16% of Democrats. These results differ only slightly from the 2018 survey, with previous results showing 66% disapproval of the direction the state is headed and only 28% approval.

Policy Issues

In this year’s legislative session, the governor proposed three constitutional amendments: one that would require an approval by popular vote of any new statewide tax proposed by the Legislature, one that would guarantee payment of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend and make it a constitutional right, and one that would set a new spending cap on the state’s budget, replacing the current spending cap. Seventy five percent of all respondents support or strongly support the amendment regarding state taxes, and 61% support or strongly support the constitutional spending cap. Protecting the PFD in the constitution received more mixed results, with a small majority (54%) in favor and 43% opposed. Because these amendments were first introduced by the governor earlier this year, there are no prior survey results on these topics.

Resource Development

When asked about the prospects of a potential gas pipeline from the North Slope — currently known as the Alaska LNG project — skepticism about the pipeline getting built has increased from the previous year. Fifty seven percent of respondents feel that the pipeline is not likely to be built in the foreseeable future, while 31% said that Alaska is closer than ever to getting a natural gas pipeline built. This is compared with 54% responding “not likely” and 38% responding “closer than ever” in 2018. The demographics with the most confidence in the project were those who had lived in Alaska fewer than 10 years (44%), Republicans (40%), those who live in Southeast Alaska (40%) and those who self-reported as not following local news (40%).

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