Portland State University. Department of Speech
Date of Publication
Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech
Tobacco industry -- Law and legislation -- Oregon, Cigarettes -- Taxation -- Oregon
During the past forty years, Oregon voters have approved only two tax proposals; both taxes on cigarettes. The subject of this study is the campaign carried out by proponents of H.B. 3064 to pass the most recent Oregon tax referendum measure. Central to the questions asked in the investigation of the 1972 cigarette tax campaign was why the outcome of this proposal was successful. The thesis hypothesizes that the critical variable was the involvement of major socio-economic interest groups in formulating and disseminating persuasive campaign messages.
The rationale for entering into such a study was the shortage of information on campaigns which focus not only on the effects of the "new politics" on the electorate, but which fill in details of significance to the historical setting within which the campaign takes place. Further, there is an apparent shortage of information on state-wide referendum campaigns which describe the campaign setting, the structure of the decision-making organization directing the campaign effort, and the voters reaction to campaign strategies.
For these reasons two research methods were utilized for the descriptive case study: a field investigation and a two-part opinion survey. The former traced the historical-political situation in Oregon, action taken by the 1971 legislative assembly to correct the state budgetary dilemma, the mobilization of public and private individuals following the successful referral drive to place the cigarette tax on the ballot, and campaign strategies carried out during the 40 day period prior to the special election.
By reviewing all available news reports and interviewing those persons active in the campaign, the field investigation revealed that the state was indeed threatened by budgetary crisis and that the proposed tax was the only immediately available solution. An alternative source would have required another special session, another 90 day waiting period, and the threat of another referendum. Without the tax, state agencies depending for support on revenue coming from the General Fund would face a two percent cut in funds for the 1972-73 fiscal year.
It was also found in the field investigation that the cigarette tax had support from legislative leaders of both political parties; a collection of large permanent interest groups; and an array of state officials and private citizens with pocket-book interest in passing the ballot measure. Persuasive appeals developed by the involved groups focused on the fiscal impact of a tax defeat on these and other special economic groups in Oregon.
Results of the second research method, the voter-leadership survey, indicated that the voters surveyed were generally accurate in assessing the participation of interest groups and were influenced by those groups most visible and state officials most vocal. It also revealed that while the voters professed to being influenced by certain groups or individuals, the reasons they gave for their vote choice were not those emphasized by the influence sources.
The leadership survey found that interest group leaders were somewhat more accurate than legislators in ascribing motives to the choices voters made, but that there was a significant discrepancy between opinions of voters and opinions of the state leadership relevant to the reasons people voted as they did.
As to the central question of this thesis, the investigation did confirm the proposition that interest groups made the difference in the success of the 1972 cigarette tax measure. Interest groups were effective, chiefly because of the many roles they performed in each phase of the campaign: as initiators of campaign activity, as legitimizers, as fund raisers, and as channel sources for disseminating persuasive messages to both their own members and to the general public. The study strongly suggests that it was the mediating activity of state and local influential, through the mechanisms of special interest pressure and cause groups which provided the critical margin in the vote outcome.
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Danielson, Gwendolyn Moore, "The 1972 cigarette tax referendum: a mass communication campaign" (1972). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1557.