By Craig Fuller
There was a very important Election Day victory for the general aviation community, but it did not involve anyone actually listed on a ballot. Our victory has to do with the views of voters and a dramatic increase of support for GA from 2008 to 2012. I will share with you below what we just learned from a new survey taken the evening of the election and the day after….
During the four years since the national elections in 2008, we in the general aviation community have been doing everything possible to advance the notion (and the reality) that GA really matters. It means jobs, economic growth, and the expression of an important freedom, the freedom to fly.
Here at AOPA we formed General Aviation Serves America when user fees threatened in 2009. Our friends at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) advanced “No Plane, No Gain” to share stories of how vital aircraft are for all types of commercial activity. And, together with a broad based group called the Alliance for Aviation Across America, we worked to encourage state legislators and governors to pass resolutions in support of general aviation.
So, here’s the story. For a number of years, I have worked with one of the best public opinion researchers in the business who runs a post-election survey to learn all about what voters had on their minds on election day. The survey is national and has a fairly large sample. But what has always interested me about this technique is that the survey consists only of voters who actually voted, so it provides valuable insights into the thinking of our citizens who care enough to vote!
The researcher works with several groups in advance to find questions that are of a unique interest. So, in 2008 and again in 2012 we asked America’s voters some questions about general aviation. To be honest, the results are very favorable—so favorable that if the exact same questions had not been asked previously by the same researcher using the same post-election survey technique, I might be a bit skeptical.
What I believe the survey shows very clearly is that America’s voters place a higher value on general aviation in 2012 than they did in 2008. Yes, that’s right. We are doing better in the minds of voters. And, going into the highly charged public policy debates over the next several months, these findings should serve to bolster our case.
So, here are the results.
In 2008 and again in 2012, we asked voters to tell us whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: General aviation in the United States is an important part of the nation’s transportation system.
In 2008, 62% agreed. In 2012 93% agreed.
And, the agreement was across all demographic groups.
2. In both national election years we asked voters to agree or disagree with this statement: General aviation in the United States is important to me and my family.
In 2008, 29% agreed. In 2012, 76% agreed.
3. One other question of interest was asked that was new this year. We asked voters about their aspiration to fly in a private plane. Across all voters, 31% of those that had never been in a private plane said they hope to some day. And, among younger voters between the ages of 18 and 24, just over half said they have the desire to fly in a private plane.
These election day results encourage me to think that tens of millions of America’s voters not only recognize the value of general aviation, but actually want to participate in experiencing the freedom to fly. I know sometimes we feel like our constituency is small, but because we are passionate and vocal we are building a stronger appreciation for GA and all that the freedom to fly means in America! We need to keep up the fight and we need your continued support–together we really are changing the way America views GA.