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Paper or plastic? PEMCO Poll shows Seattleites oppose “green” bag tax

July 29, 2009

SEATTLE In a recent poll from PEMCO Insurance, Puget Sound residents confirmed they don’t support a proposed 20-cent tax on grocery bags, and instead would make the switch to reusable bags to avoid the tax if it passes when residents vote on the issue August 18. 

If voters approve the 20-cent bag tax, nearly eight out of 10 people (79 percent) agree that they would start using reusable shopping bags if they aren’t already doing so, the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll reveals.   

But the poll also suggests that shoppers most likely won’t have to make the switch since 71 percent of respondents said they oppose the tax that will appear on Seattle voters’ ballots in August. 

In July 2008, Seattle City Council approved several measures to increase the city’s green efforts. Among them was a 20-cent tax on paper and plastic grocery sacks, slated to go into effect in January 2009.   

The tax triggered mixed reactions among Seattleites. A local organization sought to repeal the tax with a petition that garnered the 20,000 signatures needed to put the issue to a public vote.

“Our latest poll results show that this proposed ‘green’ legislation is an issue Northwest residents feel strongly about,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson.  “Obviously, insurance and grocery bags don’t go hand in hand, but we’re a local company and we care about issues that are important to the community. 

“The poll is a useful tool to gauge local attitudes on relevant issues that affect us and shape many of the values we share as Northwest residents,” he said.  “We’ll continue tracking this debate and other issues of local interest.”

Opposition was strongest among those who currently don’t use their own bags, according to the survey.  Of the non-users, 85 percent said they oppose a 20-cent tax, while 57 percent of users oppose the tax. 

Despite the opposition, 88 percent of respondents said that if the law passes, they would avoid paying the tax by bringing their own shopping bags. That 88 percent includes people who already bring their own bags.

PEMCO also asked respondents if they would support the proposed bag tax if it was reduced to 5 cents per bag.  Reducing the tax dramatically enhances support among all age groups, and younger respondents (35 and under) remain the most supportive of the tax at both 5 and 20 cents.   

Younger people also are more likely than people age 55 and older to admit they probably will not bring their own reusable bags when shopping, though not in huge numbers – 11 percent versus 3 percent. 

Visit http://poll.pemco.com to learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and see how you match up to the latest results.

About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents.  PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices.  For more information, visit www.pemco.com.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked drivers in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 293 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 5.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 5.8 percent.

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