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Mississippians have rarely been as polarized politically as they are today, with Democrats, Republicans and independents seldom agreeing on anything or anyone.
But there does appear to be some common ground in the state, according to a Mississippi Today/Siena College poll. Mississippians, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity, gender and income differences, agree on several policy issues and on some assessments of where things stand in Mississippi — albeit some of these shared state-of-the-state sentiments are somewhat negative or pessimistic.
Here are some areas where Mississippians seem to agree, despite partisan and other differences, according to the poll.
Mississippians across the board agree “Every Mississippian should have access to good health care” — including 94% of Democrats, 91% of Republicans and 95% of independents. A majority of each group agrees state government has a responsibility to help poor working people pay for basic healthcare and that the state should spend more money than it does now on health care. And majorities agree the state should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid to provide health care to low-income families and individuals.
There’s a bit of difference of opinion on eliminating Mississippi’s personal income tax as lawmakers are continuing to debate this session. The poll showed 66% of Republicans and 56% of independents support elimination, but only 42% of Democrats.
But a majority of all agree on axing the state’s 7% sales tax on groceries. The survey showed 71% of Republicans, 65% of Democrats and 67% of independents support this, and similar or higher majorities carried through by region, race, age, income and level of education.
Most states have either reduced sales taxes on groceries compared to other items, or have exempted groceries altogether from sales taxes. Mississippi’s 7% — the full sales tax placed on other items — is among the highest in the nation.
Across the board, Mississippians polled judged the quality of the state’s public education to be only middling. Only 17% of Democrats, 22% of Republicans and 10% of independents rated it as “excellent,” while 63% of Democrats, 59% of Republicans and 60% of independents rated it as good or fair.
Likewise, few Mississippians of any political persuasion view Mississippi as an excellent place to raise children, but most said it’s good or fair. Only 18% of Democrats, 8% of Republicans and 15% of independents said the Magnolia State is a poor place to raise kids.
A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents — 62%, 64% and 61% respectively — rate the ability of residents in Mississippi to find suitable employment as good or fair. Only 10%, 21% and 9% said it was excellent, and 25% of Democrats, 10% of Republicans and 27% of independents graded it as poor.
Access to job training got similar good-fair marks, with 25% of Democrats, 16% 0f Republicans and 26% of independents grading it as poor.
But while there is agreement among Mississippians on many things, the poll showed, there remain some glaring differences of opinion, particularly on the big picture. While 65% of Democrats are optimistic about the future of the country, only 30% of Republicans and 32% of independents are.
And asked whether Mississippi is on the right track or headed in the wrong direction, 53% of Democrats and 55% of independents said wrong direction, while 56% of Republicans said the state is on the right track.