Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Half-Life of a Half-Read Poll

I expect that for the next seven months we're going to be hearing a lot about a Gallup poll finding that 47% of all Marylanders want to move, which puts Maryland third in the rankings.  For those who see everything through the prism of taxes, this fit their narrative.  "Taxed out of Maryland!"  Not surprisingly, at the forum on Monday, I heard this poll cited three times in the hour and a half I was there.  Political cat-nip.

But let's read the poll.  When asked to give their reason for wanting to move, taxes ranked a distant fourth, with only 8% of respondents naming it as their premise for thinking of greener pastures.  Top three?  Work (17%), family (17%), weather (13%).  (Remember Spring and Fall?  Those two were a blast.  I miss them.)

And maybe we should not only look at what people say they're going to do, but also check population growth.  The census bureau projects that Maryland's population grew 2.7% over the last three years, which out-paces the average growth across the United States (2.4%).  Montana, the state that had the fewest residents looking to move under Gallup's poll, had projected growth of 2.3%, despite having one-fifth of Maryland's population to begin with.

How about Texas, often touted as a destination for tax-weary Marylanders?  Well their population is growing at a fast clip - 5.2%, but good luck once you get there.  The median household income is $51,563 (compared to $72,999 in Maryland) with 17.4% of their population living below the poverty line (compared to 9.4% in Maryland and a US average of 14.9%).

We're going to make our best policy by deciding what is best for Marylanders and Maryland businesses, not by comparison to other states.  Don't get me wrong, I think we can learn a lot from what other states are doing and how that has worked to benefit the economy, education, environment, and energy sectors, but nothing operates in a vacuum.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!