By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press
FRANKFORT - Voters think Kentucky should raise the tax on cigarettes to get money for education and social services, even if the poor pay it disproportionately, a poll indicates.
Those surveyed also opposed an expansion of gambling in general, though they were narrowly divided on specific issues of slot machines at race tracks and the granting of a few licenses for riverboat casinos.
The poll was of 600 voters who said they definitely or probably would vote on Nov. 4.
It was conducted by telephone Tuesday through Thursday for the Associated Press and four other news organizations - the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Daily News of Bowling Green, WDRB-TV in Louisville and WKYT-TV in Lexington. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Fifty-nine percent of those polled said the excise tax on cigarettes should be increased. Nearly as many, 57 percent, favor a raise in the tax even when faced with the argument that it would disproportionately tax the poor. Seven in 10 who favored an increase said the money should go to education and to programs for the elderly and poor.
Kentucky's tax, 3 cents per pack, is the nation's second-lowest.
Neither candidate for governor has advocated raising the cigarette tax.
Republican Ernie Fletcher has said he'd be willing to bring the cigarette tax "to the table" as part of an overall "tax modernization."
Democrat Ben Chandler has said raising the cigarette tax would have a disproportionately larger burden on the poor.
On gambling, 55 percent of those polled said they strongly opposed or somewhat opposed an expansion of legal gambling. Forty-three percent were in favor with 2 percent undecided.
On specific issues of gambling, respondents were nearly equally divided about having a limited number of casino boats, such as those offshore in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. Forty-seven percent favored slot machines at race tracks and 52 percent were opposed.
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