"Our rights come from nature and God, not from government. That's who we are. That's how we built this country. That's who we are. That's what made us great. That's our founding. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes."
Those were among the first words spoken by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin upon becoming Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential running mate. Those few sentences cut to the core principles upon which America was founded and resonated with a Republican Party base longing to rekindle the fervor of the Reagan years.
A Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research survey of Pennsylvania Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Republican National Convention found Ryan's words struck a chord. Ninety-eight percent of those responding to the survey agreed that our basic rights as Americans are God-given, while just 2% felt such rights were granted by government.
The Pennsylvania delegation also strongly views the Federal government as part of the problem, not part of the solution, with 90% saying the federal government is an adversarial force, and the rest believing the federal government is a positive force.
In terms of the issues facing our nation, Pennsylvania's Republican National Convention delegation rated the most series problems as: the economy, federal government spending, federal budget deficit, Obamacare, and the unemployment rate. Rated as the least serious issues were global warming, gay marriage, the mortgage/banking crisis, the war in Afghanistan, and abortion.
Pennsylvania's GOP delegates/alternate delegates were strongly united in their view that the Obama Administration's foreign policies have made the United States less secure with 89% holding that opinion. Even more, 92% disapproved of the President's handling of the war in Afghanistan. There is less agreement on two other pressing foreign policy issues. Seventy-three percent think the United States should intervene militarily in Syria, but 28% disagree. Sixty-one percent believe America should intervene militarily to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, with 39% in disagreement.
On no issue, however, is there more agreement among the delegation than on the economy. Unanimously, 100% view the economy as off in the wrong direction. And, 93% place the blame squarely on President Barack Obama. Sixty-one percent also fault congress, and 59% place blame on the Federal Reserve. Twenty-six percent hold former President George W. Bush culpable for the nation's economic ills.
Speaking of the former president, 70% of Pennsylvania's Republican National Convention delegation believes the Bush-era tax rates should be made permanent for all Americans regardless of income. Nine percent want the tax rates made permanent for families earning under $250,000 per year. Another 13% think the Bush era tax rates should be temporarily extended for all Americans. Only 4% support reinstating the pre-Bush tax cut rates. The delegation is split over the future of the payroll (Social Security) tax cuts. Forty-eight percent favors extending the Obama payroll tax cuts, 52% oppose any extension. Wide agreement returns among the delegates on the subject of cutting rates on capital gains, with 83% supporting such cuts. Eighty-nine percent supports eliminating the estate or "death tax" entirely, while 7% favor cutting the rate. Ninety-three percent of the delegation supports lowering personal income tax rates as a means of stimulating economic growth.
Spending cuts are the weapon of choice for balancing the federal budget. Seventy-four percent of Pennsylvania's delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention favors spending cuts only to reduce the deficit. Another 26% support a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes. Not a single respondent supported only raising taxes to reduce the deficit. There is also strong opposition to raising the U.S. government's debt ceiling. Ninety-six percent oppose raising it. Unanimity among the delegates was also achieved on the issue of allowing younger Americans to invest a portion of their Social funds in personal savings accounts outside the current Social Security system, with 100% in agreement. Sixty-seven percent think Social Security will be around for future generations of Americans, but with substantial changes. Thirty-four percent believe the system is headed for bankruptcy.
Seventy percent of the delegation supports term limits on members of Congress, while 30% oppose term limits. A sizable majority of the delegation, 81%, also believes that earmarks, or specific spending directed by Members of Congress, are wasteful spending. Twenty-three percent feel earmarks are an appropriate way to allocate funds.
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research also asked the Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention their views on a range of state issues.
On the subject of taxes, 58% said that the state personal income tax rate is too high, 39% say it is about right, and 6% say personal income tax rates are too low. However, 92% of the respondents said business taxes are too high, and 8% said they are about right. Nobody though business taxes were too low. Seventy-five percent said they would not support an increase in the state gasoline tax to fund infrastructure (highway) improvements. Twenty-five percent would back higher taxes for that purpose. Sixty-percent also oppose an increase in vehicle registration and/or driver license fees for highway improvements. Forty percent said they could support increasing fees for such a purpose.
Seventy-one percent of the delegation said they feel the property tax-based system currently utilized by school districts, counties and local government to fund services is unfair to most segments of their community. Twenty-nine percent see property taxes as fair. Fifty percent of the delegates/alternate delegates participating in the poll said they would favor a more broad based state sales tax at the current rate as a means of replacing real estate or property taxes. Twenty-six percent said they would support replacing property taxes with a combination of local sales and earned income taxes while 18% percent would back local sales taxes only. Another 13% would support increasing the state sales tax rate to replace property taxes.
In terms of public education; 65% of the delegation feel the Corbett Administration's cuts in K-12 public education are about right; 19% say they are not deep enough and 17% say the cuts are too deep. Eighty-six percent of the delegation supports the concept of school choice when that involves giving vouchers or grants so that students can attend a public school in a district other than their own.
There is also concern over the level of the Commonwealth's indebtedness. Ninety-six percent of the state's delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention believes the commonwealth's debt load is currently too high. Another four percent say debt levels are about right. When it comes to Pennsylvania's general fund budget, 63% say overall state spending is too high, 35% believe it is about right, and 2% say it is too low.
Labor power issues have been at the top of the agenda in many states. Ninety-six percent of Pennsylvania's national convention delegates and alternates support enactment of a Right to Work law, meaning that a worker cannot be fired or kept from having a job for either joining or not joining a labor union. Eighty percent support a ban on allowing public school teachers to strike.
Finally, there was unanimous opinion behind a proposal to privatize the state's liquor store system. Eighty-four percent of the delegation strongly supports such a ban, with 16% somewhat in favor.
When asked their political ideology, not a single member of the Pennsylvania Delegation to the Republican National Convention admitted to being a liberal, with just one claiming to be a moderate. Ninety-eight percent of the delegation labeled themselves conservative, with 58% saying there are very conservative.
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. conducted its survey of Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention electronically from August 14, 2012 thru August 22, 2012. A total of 56 members of the delegation participated in the poll. Complete numeric results are available on-line at www.lincolninstitute.org.