A heartening poll on GST and the tax cuts – what a pity it mirrors the views only of Aucklanders

Good news for The Boss and the rest of us in the National caucus today. Or rather, it’s good news up to a point, when you accept that Auckland is not the best place to try to gauge what the country thinks.

Herald readers have given the thumbs-up to the proposals announced this week to raise the goods and services tax and cut income taxes.

They were asked, “What would you prefer? GST to be increased to 15 per cent but the rise to be compensated with a personal tax cut, or GST to remain the same but no tax cuts.”

Of the 1407 Aucklanders on the Herald’s online reader panel who replied, 56 per cent opted for higher GST with tax cuts.

Only 40 per cent chose the status quo, and 4 per cent were unsure.

The result reverses years of polls finding that tax increases were unpopular. A Research NZ poll before the last election found 80 per cent support for cutting taxes on food.

But it matches another online poll this week that found a small margin in favour of the Government’s proposed package deal combining higher GST with lower income tax.

It remains now for The Boss to sort out his position if the Maori Party gets stroppy and opposes any raising of GST, which it looks likely to do unless The Boss can come up with something to keep them happy. Renaming the country Aotearoa, for example, or putting Pita Sharples’ picture on the NZ flag in place of the Union Jack.

It seemed to Alf that Key would back off if the Maori Party spoilsports opt not to support the tax reforms. At least, he gave that impression in a report from Radio NZ on the goings-on about GST and tax cuts. But –

A spokesman said he stood by what he actually said – that he would need support for the tax package from the Government’s confidence-and-supply partners, who include Act and United Future as well as the Maori Party.

“He is confident that we can.”

The spokesman said the PM also stood by a statement that he would raise GST only if he had “evidence that the vast bulk of people would be better off”.

The Herald has published the results of its calculations showing that a single-income family with two young children would be better off at all incomes between $30,000 and $100,000 if GST was raised to 15 per cent, the top two income tax rates were cut to 30 per cent, the bottom two by 2 per cent and benefits, pensions and family tax credits raised by 2.22 per cent.

But The Boss will want more substantial evidence that the people are behind us if we proceed with the tax cuts and lift in GST.

Mr Key declined to comment directly on the Herald reader survey on the basis that it was “not scientific”.

Labour leader Phil Goff also questioned whether the survey reflected wider opinion.

“There would be a whole lot of people out there who are finding it pretty hard to make ends meet at the moment, who probably don’t buy newspapers and would be pretty strongly against GST going up,” he said.

“They know [that] if they are on a lower income, they are not going to be the beneficiaries of cutting the top tax rate.”

So how credible is the poll?

There’s some stuff in the Herald’s report about the survey questions being emailed by Nielsen on Thursday evening to 6432 readers. By the deadline of 10.30am yesterday, 22 per cent had replied.

People aged 35 to 49 made up 40.2 per cent of the sample compared with 30.3 per cent of the national adult population, with older and younger people relatively undersampled. Results were weighted to be representative of adult Auckland readers of the Herald.

Although readers gave a broad tick to the Government’s likely tax package, they were less sure when asked if the package was fair. Only 43 per cent said yes and 45 per cent no.

Asked whether the proposals “do enough to promote economic growth”, only 22 per cent said yes and 51 per cent no.

A solid 62 per cent agreed that the Government should tax property investors more heavily; 33 per cent were opposed.

Asked whether a rise in GST would prompt them to spend less, 48 per cent said yes and 48 per cent no. But asked if a rise in GST would prompt them to save more, only 27 per cent said yes and 65 per cent no.

Alf’s major reservation, before he is convinced we Nats are on a winner with the tax reforms, is that the poll results come from a mere 1407 Aucklanders on the Herald’s online reader panel who replied.

Only 1407 out of 6432 is a dubious strike rate, and most of the great majority who did not reply probably have trouble reading, which accounts for Auckland being a place best avoided. It also means the poor buggers don’t really know what the tax reforms are all about.

If we want to poll the brightest and the best, we should try sounding out the good people of Eketahuna. But The Boss will want to know the mood of the nation throughout the nation, which calls for nation-wide polling, from North Cape to the Bluff.

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