Poll: Trains have not left station

The debate over which high-speed train would best serve Nevadans is a hot topic in the political arena, but a recent poll shows that, by a slim margin, most voters aren't overwhelmingly supportive of that particular mode of transportation.

It's a showdown between a magnetic levitation train (maglev) and the steel-wheeled DesertXpress rail project.

A poll conducted Tuesday through Thursday by Washington D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. showed that of 500 registered voters throughout the state, 42 percent supported the maglev train, which would ferry passengers from Las Vegas to Anaheim, Calif. Opponents made up 49 percent of those polled and 9 percent were undecided.

When it comes to the DesertXpress proposal, 44 percent statewide supported the train that would travel between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif., 47 percent opposed it and 9 percent were undecided.

The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Brad Coker, managing partner for Mason-Dixon, doesn't believe the poll results necessarily reflect the public's opinion about the high-speed train proposals in general. It's more about the timing of the projects.

"If the economy turns around, some of this might turn around," Coker said. "The last thing taxpayers want to see is their money going to a train project going out of state. The economy needs to turn around to get people to loosen their fingers around their wallets."

The greatest disparity in numbers comes between men and women and their leanings when it comes to technology, or perhaps funding or even party affiliation.

Women are strongly against the DesertXpress train, with 50 percent opposing the privately funded $4 billion project and 38 percent in support of it. Women instead embrace, though not overwhelmingly, the magnet-powered train with 48 percent saying they would favor such a project and 41 percent indicating they would not support it.

This falls more in line with the Democrats' position on the two proposals. When it comes to the maglev train, 56 percent of the Democrats polled support it; 37 percent are opposed. Fifty percent of the Democrats support the DesertXpress while 41 percent oppose the project.

In contrast, 50 percent of the men polled embrace the steel-wheeled train while 44 percent do not. Men are not supportive of the magnetic-driven train. Only 36 percent approve of the idea; 57 percent object to it.

Republicans appear to be dead against the $12 billion maglev project, which would be funded with private and public money. Only 26 percent expressed approval of the project and 61 percent opposed it; 13 percent were undecided.

Coker noted that more women in Nevada are registered Democrats and men tend to be Republicans.

"It's more of a party thing," Coker said. "I don't think women would rather go to Disneyland and men would rather go to the desert."

It is not surprising that Republicans would oppose the maglev train, partly because they oppose projects that involve public money, he said. The project also carries a stigma because it would likely receive money from President Barack Obama's stimulus package.

On top of that, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is the politician who initially secured funding for maglev.

"I would say the maglev is going to be the most controversial simply because it's going to be using public funds," Coker said. "I suspect the state will have to kick something in. Taxpayers are feeling squeezed, especially in Southern Nevada. I think they would clearly rather see the money spent on schools and roads rather than a train to Disneyland."

Ironically, Reid has since shifted his allegiance to the DesertXpress. Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, has publicly pushed for the maglev proposal to move forward.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904.