Atlanta Building News
July 12, 2011

Poll Finds Big Disconnect Between Washington Policymakers and Voters on Value of Housing

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Nearly three of four American voters believe it is reasonable and appropriate for the federal government to provide tax incentives to promote homeownership, a sentiment that cuts across partisan and regional lines across the country, according to a recent poll conducted on behalf of NAHB.

Further, an overwhelming majority of respondents oppose eliminating the mortgage interest deduction and would be less likely to support a candidate for Congress who wants to do away with this vital tax incentive.

"Despite the current housing downturn, Americans still see homeownership as a core value and a key building block of being in the middle class and creating strong jobs in their communities," said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, which conducted the survey along with Public Opinion Strategies.

"The bottom line: The bipartisan consensus outside the beltway is that owning a home remains an essential part of the American Dream and voters would strongly oppose any efforts by lawmakers to increase barriers to homeownership," she said.

Two thousand likely 2012 voters were surveyed from May 3-9 to assess attitude in the wake of the Great Recession toward housing, the mortgage interest deduction and the value of homeownership.

The survey included data from key political "swing areas," broken out by House Republican freshmen seats, National Journal political analyst Charlie Cook’s swing House and Senate seats and Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza’s presidential toss-up states.

For a Cook Political Report column in the June 4 National Journal on some of the political implications of the survey findings, click here.

Among the poll’s key findings:

  •    73% of all respondents — both owners and renters — believe the federal government should provide tax incentives to promote homeownership. This support for housing runs strong among all party affiliations, with 79% of Democrats, 71% of Republicans and 68% of independents agreeing with this statement.

76% of respondents among the Cook Report’s key Senate races, 75% of voters in the Cook Report’s swing House districts, 75% among Cillizza’s presidential swing states and 71% of voters residing in GOP House freshmen districts voiced their support for the federal government to provide tax incentives to encourage homeownership.

  •     71% of voters oppose proposals to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, and 63% oppose efforts to reduce it.

A majority are also against eliminating the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans, ending the deduction for interest paid on a second home, limiting the deduction for those earning more than $250,000 per year or capping the deduction for home owners with mortgages over $500,000.

  •    By a more than two-to-one margin (57% to 26%), voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports eliminating the mortgage interest deduction.

These figures held firm across the political spectrum, with 63% of Republicans, 56% of Independents, 55% of Democrats and 61% of tea party supporters saying they would be less likely to support a candidate who favored killing the deduction.

58% of voters residing in House GOP freshmen districts, 58% in the Cook Report’s House swing districts, 56% among the Cook Report’s Senate toss-up races and 54% of voters living in Cillizza’s presidential swing states said that they would be less likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who proposed to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction.

  •     Even when told that getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction would help ease the federal budget deficit, 65% of voters opposed any proposal to abolish the housing tax provision.

This strong consensus cuts across partisan lines, with 69% of Republicans, 69% of Independents and 59% of Democrats opposing eliminating the deduction.

  •     Saving for a downpayment and closing costs is seen as the biggest barrier to homeownership.

Among voters who are aware of proposals under consideration by Washington policymakers to raise the downpayment requirements for a home loan, 92% believe it will make it more difficult to buy a home.

Six federal agencies are proposing a national standard to require a minimum 20% downpayment, which would be opposed by households most likely to be affected — mortgage holders and renters ages 18 to 54. Among voters in these age groups, 59% of renters and 58% of those holding a mortgage oppose adding that obstacle to buying a home.

"The polling found that there is a significant disconnect between Washington policymakers and the nation’s electorate when it comes to the mortgage interest deduction, the importance of homeownership and the need to keep housing a national priority," said Neil Newhouse, a partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies.

"The Administration and some in Congress are floating plans to curtail or even abolish the mortgage interest deduction and impose changes that would make it much more difficult and expensive to get a home loan," he said.

"This is in direct opposition to the views of most Americans, who want the government to encourage growth in the housing market and to maintain tax incentives to keep housing affordable."

The polling results also show:
  •     75% of voters say that owning a home is the best long-term investment they can make.
  •    73% of voters who do not now own a home say that it is a goal of theirs to eventually buy a home.
  •     An even greater percentage of home owners — 95% — say they are happy with their decision to own a home, and believe that owning their own home is important.
  •     80% of home owners would advise a close friend or family member just starting out to buy a home.
  •     Americans believe that owning their own home is as important as being successful at their job or being able to pay for a family member’s education.

"Those in Congress who believe that homeownership and housing choice should no longer be national priorities would be well-served to study the results of this poll and hear what the American people think," said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen.

"To put it another way, America’s voters have spoken," said Nielsen. "If Congress abandons policies to support the goal of homeownership and to keep housing affordable, lawmakers could be in for a rude awakening in the 2012 elections."

Public Opinion Strategies is a national political and public affairs research firm based in Alexandria, Va. Founded in 1991, it has conducted more than 6 million interviews with voters and consumers in all 50 states and over two dozen foreign countries.
Lake Research Partners is a leading public opinion and political strategy research firm providing expert research-based strategy for campaigns, issue advocacy groups, foundations, unions and non-profit organizations.

For more information, email Blake Smith at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8583.

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