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Virginians Narrowly Support Public Investment to Land Amazon HQ2

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By The Office of Public Policy Outreach at VCU’s Wilder School
January 28, 2019

When Amazon began its search for the location of their second headquarters, cities across the nation vied to be the chosen location. After an extensive search, on November 13, 2018 Amazon publicly announced that it would be splitting its second opening headquarters into two different cities: one in New York and one in Northern Virginia. Once Amazon has created its roots in Arlington, Virginia, it is estimated that around 25,000 high paying jobs will be created. While some were pleased with this announcement, others had concerns regarding the costs required for such an endeavor. In this contract, the Commonwealth of Virginia must pay $500 million in direct incentives toward Amazon’s construction and development efforts, resulting in an escalating debate on whether the costs of this new headquarters might outweigh the benefits.

To gain a better understanding of the thoughts of Virginians on the Amazon debate, we included questions regarding this discussion in our 2018-19 Winter Public Policy Poll. The poll, a random sample of 805 adults in Virginia, was conducted by landline and cell telephone from Dec. 3 -13, 2018 and had a margin of error of 3.45 percent. We share results of these polls with members of the Virginia General Assembly, with the media, and with members of the public where they gain insight on the public’s opinions on important policy issues. In addition to economic development questions such as Amazon’s HQ2, our polls explore a variety of other topics such as education, public safety, voting intentions, and health.

To learn more about how Virginians view Amazon’s HQ2, we asked:

Amazon recently decided to bring one of its next headquarters to Virginia. As part of the deal Amazon will create 25,000 high paying jobs in exchange for $500 million in direct incentives from the state. Based on what you’ve read or heard, which of the following statements do you most agree with, even if neither is exactly right?

• Bringing Amazon headquarters to Virginia will create more benefit than the investment costs.

• Virginia is investing too much to bring Amazon headquarters to Virginia.

Results showed that Virginias narrowly supported HQ2. Overall, 49 percent of participants believed that the Amazon headquarters would ultimately produce more benefits than costs, while 41 percent believed the state was investing too much (with about 10 percent saying that they did not know).

Breaking down the demographics further, it was shown that individuals 65 years of age and over, as well as households making a total of $50,000 to under $100,000, were the populations most against the Amazon HQ investment (with 47 percent of each group feeling that Virginia would be investing too much). Those most in favor of the Amazon headquarters were individuals whose household incomes were over $100,000 (62 percent).

Our polling data shows that while majority of the individuals who responded believed the benefits of this agreement outweighed the investment costs, it is still a narrow margin of support. Most of the percentages of those in favor of the investment were around the low 50’s, indicating a minimal majority. Interestingly enough, poll participants from Northern Virginia showed the highest percentage of individuals who believe Virginia is investing too much in the Amazon headquarters development (45 percent) when compared to the other regions of Virginia (ranging from 34 percent to 44 percent). Hesitation shown from the individuals who will be directly impacted by the arrival of a major company in their region could be viewed as a possible major concern for both Amazon and government officials. What is clear and evident, however, is that there are demographic factors that influence the way people view government and business decisions like that of Amazon.

Through this poll and other efforts, we are committed to advancing research that informs public opinion, stimulates conversations, and builds stronger communities. By analyzing and reporting this and other data, we can provide an opening for further discussion into the future developments between big businesses and governments. Outside of the agencies involved in this negotiation, it is everyday Virginians who will be most impacted by deals like this. Polls such as ours allow for their perspectives to be heard.

Author: The Office of Public Policy Outreach is part of the Center for Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. The office prepares VCU faculty for effective interactions with state and local lawmakers and helps generate and translate academic knowledge into successful public policies for the commonwealth.

Twitter: @CPPatVCU

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