Mineta Transportation Institute: New Report summarizing transit polls

SAN JOSE, Calif., Aug. 4, 2015 — Researchers and transit planners now have a one-stop report that assembles questions from 56 US public opinion polls asking respondents their views about public transit. The assembled set of questions can be used to inspire the design of future transit surveys. What Do Americans Think about Public Transit? A Review of U.S. Public Opinion Polling Survey Questions is published by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI). The author was Asha Weinstein Agrawal, PhD.

The report is available for free download at http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1132.html

“Our objective was to help future researchers and transit planners,” said Dr. Agrawal. “We did this by identifying a large set of polls asking people their opinions about public transit, assembling a bank of questions that can help generate ideas for wording future questions, and summarizing the results of relevant poll questions to assess the state of public opinion about transit.”

Analysis of the responses to the poll questions found that strong majorities of people believe that transit brings a number of specific benefits to their community, especially congestion relief and accessibility for vulnerable residents. Strong majorities also support improvements to transit as a general concept.

However, Dr. Agrawal also found that support for transit as a concept did not always translate into support for increasing revenues for transit. “Less than half of people support the general concept of increased spending on transit, and considerably fewer than half support raising any specific tax to increase transit funding, except for sales taxes, which usually enjoy majority support.”

The findings from the current review also suggest some types of public opinion questions that have not been commonly asked but might fill important knowledge gaps, such as:

  • More directly ask respondents why they support public transit. The existing polls typically break this information into two questions, one asking about benefits perceived, and another asking whether or not people support more or better transit.
  • More directly ask respondents who say they would not support additional funding for transit why they hold this opinion.

The opinion polls reviewed were conducted by a diverse set of government agencies, pollsters, academic research organizations, and other institutions from across the US, including the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Pew Research Center, Rasmussen Reports, Lane Transit District, Reason Foundation, City of Colorado Springs, San Diego Association of Governments, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Indian Nations Council of Governments.

August 4th Press Release