Pew Poll Finds Philadelphians Wary of Property Tax Overhaul

Pew Poll Finds Philadelphians Wary of Property Tax Overhaul

A Pew Charitable Trusts poll finds that many Philadelphians are not aware of the city's new property tax system, and those who are aware are skeptical about the structure.

Little more than half of the residents surveyed said they knew about the new system, known as the Actual Value Initiative, or AVI, which was enacted by the City Council this year after several years of consideration. Among those who are aware of AVI, 44 percent said it would make real estate taxes less fair, compared with 26 percent who said it would make real estate taxes more equitable.

Most Philadelphians said the change would have no impact on whether they would continue to live in the city; 22 percent, however, said they would be less likely to remain, compared with 8 percent who would be more likely to stay.

As for the future of city taxation, residents said they favored a concept long advocated by leaders of the business community and others: reducing wage and business taxes as a way to spur job creation. The ratio of support was well over 2-to-1. But they opposed the idea of raising property taxes to help make up for any resulting budget gaps by a ratio of nearly 2-to-1.

On the whole, residents appeared to be less accepting of taxes and government than in prior years. Asked which path they generally preferred—higher taxes and more government services or lower taxes and fewer services—Philadelphians opted for lower taxes and fewer services by a margin of 9 percentage points, 50 percent to 41 percent. In 2012, respondents favored higher taxes and more services by 7 percentage points, 49 percent to 42 percent.

This report is the third based on the results of the recent Pew poll. The first covered public education, and the second focused on the overall mood of the city.

About the survey

The Pew survey was conducted by telephone between July 23 and Aug. 13, 2013, among a citywide random sample of 1,605 residents 18 and older. Interviews were conducted with 530 landline users and 1,075 cellphone users to reach a broad representative sample of Philadelphians.

The final sample was weighted to reflect the demographic breakdown of the city. The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, record error, and respondent error.

Abt SRBI Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviews, working with Cliff Zukin, a veteran pollster and professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers University.

This report was written by Larry Eichel, a director of Pew's Philadelphia program who oversees the Philadelphia research initiative.


The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew's Philadelphia research initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis on key issues facing Philadelphia for the benefit of the city's citizens and leaders.