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Poll: Voters From All Walks Support Transportation Improvements, Reform

4:11 PM EST on February 17, 2011

Don't be fooled by the high-pitched rhetoric in Washington. The vast majority of Americans are united, at least when it comes to the topic of transportation.

That's the conclusion of the Rockefeller Foundation poll released earlier this week. A bipartisan polling team questioned 1,000 American voters nationwide about their attitudes toward the nation's roads, bridges and transit systems. They found individuals from every party affiliation support improvements in transportation and a greater focus on outcomes.

Survey results showed that, when it comes to transportation, 71 percent of voters think political leaders should seek common ground, rather than "hold fast to their opinions" -- a position favored by just 19 percent of those surveyed.

"Voters' message was this is something that we just need to get done," said Jay Campbell of Hart Research Associates which, along with Public Opinion Strategies, performed the survey for the Rockefeller Foundation.

Transportation, more than any other issue, was the area in which voters want to see cooperative problem solving from the nation's decision makers, the poll showed.

"There’s a surprising amount of partisan agreement on this issue," said Campbell. "Everyone uses transportation. Everyone thinks it’s important to make it better than it is."

Two-thirds of those surveyed said that improving the country's transportation infrastructure is "very," or "extremely" important. This was true across political boundaries, with 74 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of independents, 56 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Tea Party members falling into the "very" and "extremely" important categories.

Bipartisan agreement on this issue persisted even when survey participants were asked to gauge their approval for statements made during President Obama's State of the Union Address. Americans agreed by a 58 point margin that “in order for the United States to remain the world’s top economic superpower we need to modernize our transportation infrastructure and keep it up to date.” Americans also displayed an appetite for reform; 64 percent said that the current federal transportation spending policies are inefficient.

When asked about their top transportation priorities, safer streets and "more transportation options," were the two most popular responses. Voters favored encouraging private investment and imposing penalties for late or over-budget projects. Ninety percent of voters reported they would like to see transportation projects adhere to a national plan. Fifty-eight percent of Americans also favor a fix-it-first policy when it comes to infrastructure. The president's Infrastructure Bank proposal was also popular, drawing support from 60 percent of those surveyed.

While survey participants were eager to see improvements in the transportation system, their enthusiasm stopped short of willingness to pay higher out-of-pocket taxes and fees. Voters were not in favor of increasing the national gas tax, with 71 percent reporting such a measure would be "unacceptable."

The Rockefeller Foundation did not explore bike and pedestrian improvements as part of the study. Nor did they ask participants to differentiate between transit and road-building. A study last year by Transportation for America found that 59 percent of voters favor increased spending on public transit compared to 38 percent for roads.

The Rockefeller Foundation completed this study as part of its $66 million transportation initiative, aimed at promoting equitable and sustainable transportation policies at the federal and state level. The margin of error on the study was 3.1 percent.

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