CARSON CITY - Nevadans in growing numbers believe the state economy is picking up and overwhelmingly approve of the performance of Gov. Brian Sandoval, but they aren't pleased with the Legislature, according to a new poll of 500 likely voters.
They also don't want higher taxes, yet would increase taxes rather than cut education and health services.
Though the optimism of Nevadans has grown, the poll commissioned by the Retail Association of Nevada still shows most residents believe the state economy is heading in the wrong direction. Now 37 percent believe the economy in Nevada is going in the right direction, compared with 54 percent who think not.
Yet in the same poll in February 2010, only 11 percent felt things were going in the right direction, compared with 80 percent who thought the state was on the wrong track.
Retail Association spokesman Bryan Wachter said the poll shows registered voters still have negative overall views about the economy. He said that won't improve until there is a significant decrease in the state's highest-in-the-nation 12.1 percent unemployment rate.
"We have seen no significant movement in unemployment," he said. "Until we fix that problem, I am not sure how many people can be optimistic."
According to the poll, 34 percent believe unemployment will decrease in the next year, while 23 percent expect unemployment to increase and 37 percent figure it will stay about the same.
The poll was conducted by Glen Bolger of the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, but Wachter said Bolger polled the numbers of Democrats, Republicans and others in proportion to their percent of state voters.
Of the respondents, 41 percent were Democrats and 36 percent Republicans. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 percentage points. The one politician in Nevada who remains widely popular is Sandoval. Of the respondents, 62 percent strongly or somewhat approve of his job performance, while 24 percent disapprove and others did not have a view or refused to respond.
Nonetheless, voters by a slight margin don't believe Sandoval understands the problems of people like them face. A total of 45 percent said the governor understands their problems, while 48 percent said he does not and the rest didn't know or refused to respond.
Still Sandoval, according to the poll respondents, is much more understanding than their legislators.
Just 33 percent figure legislators understand their problems, while 62 percent said they don't and others did not know or refused to comment.
Incumbent legislators and local government candidates better be wary in November, according to the poll, because 39 percent of voters would more likely vote for someone new, 29 percent for an incumbent and the remainder undecided or refused to comment.
Wachter is not sure why voters don't think Sandoval understands them, yet he remains popular. The governor does not face re-election until November 2014.
The lack of support for legislators and local government officials is an indication that voters don't think "they have fixed the problems," he added.
"I am not sure it is a party thing anymore. The candidates who win may be those who are getting their messages through," Wachter said.
According to the poll, 44 percent of likely voters will vote for Republican legislative candidates in November, just a tick more than the 43 percent who back Democrats. The rest are undecided or refused to give an opinion.
As far as tax increases, 59 percent said a new tax on business would result in more job losses, while 34 percent believe they would not lead to layoffs.
Yet 58 percent would rather pay higher taxes for education, health care and other government services, compared withthe 32 percent who would cut spending.
Sandoval has pledged there will be no further cuts to education. He also has called again to extend for two more years $600 million in sales and business taxes that otherwise would expire on July 1, 2013.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.