Voters Register Support for GA on Election Day!

November 12, 2012 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.

  1. 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.

35 Responses to “Voters Register Support for GA on Election Day!”

  1. Kraig Krumm Says:

    High gas prices and ridiculous new aircraft prices are, were, and will continue to kill GA. The rule requiring more hours for airline pilots, along with fewer pilots demanding higher wages will cause an upward spiral in airline ticket prices resulting in fewer airline flight hours as fewer people will be able to afford the luxury of flying by airlines and general aviation. Any way you look at it, it’s going to be much less crowded in the skies in the coming years. The fix? Simple, $2.00 a gallon aviation fuel and a $75,000 Skyhawk. Gonna happen? Never! But of course this will bring us in line with other third world countries, and that seems to be the popular political agenda right now. I think the band is playing “Nearer My God to Thee”, trouble is people aren’t listening.

  2. Christopher Roberts Says:

    There may be more support for GA among voters, but it seems the President isn’t listening to them. Who IS he listening to?

  3. Floyd Sanderson Says:

    You may, shortsightedly, believe the peoples perception of GA to be meaningful. The real problem is the long term viability of the overall economy which is gloomy at best. Electing poeple who “like GA”, may feel good, but it does not sell aircraft; does not train pilots; and it certainly hasn’t kept the cost of flying in any zone that could be considered reasonable. My frugal 172 costs me $45 an hour in fuel alone. The government has plans to elimninate avgas and the engine and fuel manufactures can’t seem to focus on a single solution let alone a good solution. I can’t even us autogas in my state because it all contains alcohol. Thank the EPA and the other people who just Love GA.

  4. Tom Curl Says:

    My wife and I are both pilots. We sold our Cheetah about 4 years ago. Every once in a while when a GA plane flies over the house, getting to be a pretty rare occasion these days, I wish we still had it.

    But, when I look at the cost of 100LL, and realize it would be costing us close to $100/hr just for fuel . . . Mr. Krumm pretty much said it all.

  5. John Elsbernd Says:

    You just lost me as a member.

  6. John Elsbernd Says:

    You just lost me as a member!!!

  7. James Noonan Says:

    Am I to conclude from that stupid headlne that somehow the person elected has policies that will be favorable to GA?

  8. Jon Carlson Says:

    If for one am somewhat heartened by these results. I think the economy is coming slowly back, and that is the biggest harbinger of success or failure of GA – as long as politics doesn’t kill it off first. Keep focusing on Congress and building allies and GA could bounce back nicely as the economy grows. No, fuel prices will not go down, they never have really, but voting one way or the other isn’t going to change that. But if the economy grows we’ll be able to afford what’s necessary.

    As long as politics doesn’t kill it off first. Thanks for the survey results Craig.

  9. Frank Ahern Says:

    Craig Fuller,
    I am afraid you are part of the problem. You sound like a Democrat. The Demo-Rat-In Chief is very much against aviation, except his own 747.
    There in lies the problem. It is not just an aviation problem. It Is about freedom and liberty. We have citizens in this US of A who built their own aircraft to escape the iron curtain. I love flying and doubt if I will soon stop but would in an”oje blik” give it up to give others freedom.
    I joined AOPA in 1960 when I got my Navy wings, along with John McCain and Ken Mattingly. I dropped out of AOPA durring Far East cruses on CVA 14, the Ticonderoga and rejoined in 1973 while flying for Pan Am. Since retiring from Pan Am/Delta I’ve flown and help sell a King Air F90-1 and now fly with a Dr. in his Navajo or R172K. I was born three months before AOPA was formed. I have pictures of the first Pan Am proving flight to Shannon as I watched from a baby carriage and I was Captain of the last 707 Pan Am to Shannon 39 years latter.
    Other Nations have done well in aviation but none as well as the US of A due to our freedoms. Let us be willing to sacrifice to keep them.
    God Bless Man Kind, our Nation included

  10. Michael Meek Says:

    I wish that I shared your optimism but, I am afraid the reality is as stated so eloquently above by Mr. Krumm. You are, indeed, looking at the world throught the proverbial “rose colored glasses.” Having been a continuous member of AOPA since 1965,
    I find your naivete truly astonishing.

  11. Alan M. Dias Says:

    I agree with Mr. Fuller that the results seem almost too good to be true…

    I wonder how many of those asked understand what constitutes GA? I have had personal experiences with those opposed to GA Airports who couldn’t define it… Was any explanation of GA given to those being asked to express an opinion or could there be a possibility that their answers were addressing flying commercially?

  12. Harvard McCardle Says:

    WOW! Now I understand the weak coverage by AOPA of our presidential candidates.

  13. Scott Roberts Says:

    Gee.Like there will private/General aviation for very long? Even if the government does not force its curtailment in favor of the airlines, soon no one will be able to afford the fuel or the expenses involved. Obama will see to that. America is being MURDERED by a man who BUYS VOTES with freebies and who uses his skin color as camouflage for the fact he is fast tracking us into Socialism and reducing our nation to third world status. Yet so many people have been fooled by the complicit mainstream media that they do NOT realize what is going on.Sort of like slipping a poison pill in with food-He is KILLING AMERICA, and nobody seems to want to do anything about it. I am now unsure I will renew next year.I have been a proud member of AOPA for 10 years. But I find less and less relevant to me with every issue of AOPA PILOT. And the fact that the editors CANNOT SEE THE DAMAGE BEING DONE TO THIS NATION, yet praise the good done for general aviation really gets me wondering- WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WHEN THERE IS NO GENERAL AVIATION???

  14. James Green Says:

    So just how is re-electing Obama supposed to help GA?
    I don’t follow. He’s one of the most anti-business presidents we’ve ever had!
    I fear for our nation like never before and feel we may not survive as a republic.

  15. Zuzu Gregson Says:

    The AOPA is cuddling up to the Administration in order to keep a favored lobby position, much like the AARP has done. Thanks Mr. Krumm, Scott Roberts and others here who point out what most people using GA know is true, flying isn’t a reality for most people anymore. And government isn’t making it any better. The continuing increase in costs from fuel, taxes, fees, rental, insurance, ticketing, add on costs for baggage, blankets, meals… is moving travel by air back into the age when only wealthy celebrities could afford it. This election has ensured that prosperity isn’t encouraged, and the benefits of being successful, which may include private plane ownership or frequent air travel, is seen as something less than admirable.

  16. Tom Flagg Says:

    If I drop AOPA (if), I’ll keep my EAA membership for sure. You can still build and fly a neat little plane for under 30K. Obama has no interest in Aviation’s success.

  17. Craig Fuller Says:

    OK….I just changed the title of this post as it seems not to have conveyed the important message very well. The first sentence indicates that the support for GA that caught our attention has nothing to do with an individual candidate. Rather, the support was registered in a survey of voters taken this election year and compared with the same questions we asked four years ago. The increased expression of support for GA will help us as we fight for GA and against those measures that may threaten our ability to fly.

    By mounting a campaign to show support for GA, we have helped shape opinion. And, that only happens when our members raise their voices.

    Thank you all for your support…..we need your continued support now more than ever.

    Craig

  18. Mike Kucera Says:

    It’s disappointing to say the least, that the majority of folks commenting on this story are so cynical at a time when all pilots (professional and GA alike) need to unite! Your pessimism and negativity only stall the cause. AOPA releases a survey that shows popular opinion of GA as being more favorable now than it was four years ago, and you guys stomp all over it. How is that helpful?!

    I’m a 32 year-old pilot and co-owner of a 182RG. I know firsthand that the uninformed public views GA as being elitist. AOPA is charged with correcting this misconception and boosting awareness of the importance and accessibility of GA, and I believe they are succeeding.

    Craig’s article is proof that AOPA’s efforts are paying off, as he summed it up in the one statement that “America’s voters place a higher value on general aviation in 2012 than they did in 2008.” It’s a simple but very compelling message, and here, a bunch of glass-half-empty members stomp all over this good news.

    I would have expected that attitude from the misinformed public, not AOPA members and supposed supporters of GA!!!

    Get on the wagon, or get out of our way!

  19. Kevin Says:

    I’m still skeptical on these kinds of statistics that AOPA conducted a survey on. 2 things that I think I should be added to the survey.

    1. Ask about the mood or feelings of the survey during the voting. Do they feel rushed, happy, angry, sad etc.? This is because if they feel rushed or are in a hurry to answer a survey, or are not thinking clearly, the statistics may not be accurate because they may not give answering the questions enough thought. Also to be considered is are ALL voters who voted REQUIRED to answer the survey? If so, some voters may answer the survey just to get it out of the way, not giving the questions enough thought, thus reducing the accuracy of the survey.

    2. AOPA should also define the term “general aviation” in their survey. This is also very important. This is because I think most voters who do not know about general aviation may think general aviation means flying by using the airlines, not flying that is other than military or the airlines. Thus this may also reduce the accuracy of the survey and it may be misleading.

  20. D Burkhart Says:

    Well Mr. Fuller, I am not sure if it is ignorance or arrogance, but your comments miss the mark; the reasons for which are covered above. I have given up my AOPA membership, but for now keep EAA. I can only hope the EAA and NBAA maintain a healthy distance from your association. AOPA needs an advocate, not a politician who blows with the wind.

  21. Maynard McKillen Says:

    These survey questions are too bland and broad in nature, too few in quantity, they fail to determine what members of the public understand by the term “General Aviation”, and they fail to offer any sustained context from which to extract meaning.

    If these questions are seriously being offered as evidence that AOPA is “doing it’s job”, that AOPA upper echeleon is truly earning its keep and deserves the excess compensation, excess consumption, and lavish lifestyles it shamelessly panders to, rank and file members must vote with their feet and boost EAA membership. AOPA magazine will then be found in the only place it belongs, the magazine rack on corporate jets.

    The more that this organization has, without merit or just cause, adopted corporate style management, the less transparent, the less accountable and the less responsive to membership it has grown. AOPA exists primarily to enrich a handful of executives within the organization, and to lobby for a business elite that needs no lobby, having already purchased enough legislators to block needed economic reform and to preserve unearned corporate entitlements.

    Here’s a far better survey question, one that educates and informs, thereby soliciting a more actionable response: Corporate jet flights in controlled airspace have been taxpayer subsidized for decades. The fuel tax rate does not recover the costs these jets incur. This is a taxing loophole congress can close to effectively burst the bubble economy that surrounds corporate jets. Should corporate jet users, after decades of unjustified supply-side entitlement, be required to bear the burden for expenses they incur, thereby lifting this burden from the average Americans who have borne it, unjustly, for too long?

  22. Dan Brown Says:

    I’m sorry, but those numbers just aren’t credible. Does AOPA truly believe that 9 out of 10 voters see GA as “an important part of the nation’s transportation system”? I’d be surprised if 9 out of 10 _pilots_ believed that. The survey may have had 93% respond favorably to that question, but when a number doesn’t pass the smell test, you need to look at what’s wrong with the survey (and I’d guess it’s lack of understanding of the term “general aviation”).

  23. AOPA Now » Blog Archive » Important Victory for GA on Election Night! « GA_Flight Says:

    [...] AOPA Now » Blog Archive » Important Victory for GA on Election Night!. « New home for early ‘Air Force One’? [...]

  24. Les Says:

    What a bunch of whiners! Blaming Craig Fuller for survey results you don’t agree with? Spare me while I run to get you a kleenex. Mr. Fuller has an important role at AOPA and serves it well. In a politically divided nation he maintains political neutrality as he should. He speaks for ALL of GA, not a fragmented segment of GA who voted left or right. His comments were a rallying cry for GA (not a political party). I find it shameful that so many AOPA members would denigrate Mr. Fuller for doing his job. If you have the mindset that you should leave AOPA for the non-partisan comments of its appointed leader? May you have a strong tailwind! If you think ‘you’ would be better able to do Mr. Fullers job? Step up and shut up, else cry someone else a river!

  25. Will Says:

    I don’t understand these whiners complaining how Obama is killing GA with high fuel prices. $4 a gallon gasoline & $6 AVGAS is a reality get used to it. Second world economies are growing more wealthy and along with it their demand for fossil fuels for their cars. Even Virgin Atlantic & FedEX see the writing on the wall and are looking at alternative fuels for the fleets. The oil companies know we will pay these prices. Yes, high fuel prices suck, but we certainly are not going back to $2/gallon. There are simply way more wealthy people in the world now than 30 years ago. Funny how we want the world to share our vision of the “American Dream”, then when they achieve it and we feel the economic impact, we bitch and moan about how much more we have to pay.

    I am 36 and just got my private this year. IMHO What is killing GA is the poor ROI to get an ATP rating. As a kid, I always wanted to be an airline pilot, but with my eyesight the USAF wasn’t an option for me. To pay $100k in education out of pocket for a starting salary of $35k vs. $60k for as an Electrical Engineer? Geez… I think the upcoming shortage of airline pilots speaks for itself. I only wish I had a Hong Kong residency card like my wife’s friend and have his ATP fully paid for by the government. He’s 29 and a 3rd officer for Cathy Pacific flying 777s around the world.

  26. Will Says:

    I should also add I am a product marketer for the most profitable company in the S&P500 according to Bloomberg News. And I tell you learning and applying the concepts how my firm extracts maximum revenue & profit from our customers has been an eye-opening experience for me. I can only imagine the Oil Companies must be doing the same after all we the USA (including myself) believe in free markets and every company’s ability to maximize profits, Just don’t foolishly think free market Capitalism means cheap costs for you or me. People get paid big bucks to find the optimum supply & demand balance point which is their duty to company shareholders.

    Point being a repeat of Republican talking points against Obama doesn’t prove why he’s bad for GA and I don’t see anyone here with a convincing argument why a Republican would be any better. (Don’t tell me any of you seriously believe that all the oil from that Mid-western pipeline to Canada will stay in the US. That would be in violation of free market principles which we hold dear.)

  27. Phil Says:

    In order to ensure a favorable public and government opinion of GA, AOPA should establish a separate fund to produce a very short, concise video for lawmakers, and or television advertisement conveying the value of GA flights and small airports to the communities, ie. emergency (volunteer) medical flights and other emergency flights, and get it in front of lawmakers and the public.

    Just saying we have the right to fly and we like it, or saying that GA is good for business and more effective than commercial does not carry weight with the majority of voters or legislators in the current environment. We must stress our service to the public in areas where there is no governmental or commercial service, ie. mercy flights, medical flights, flying doctors, etc., and also we must do more of it. Otherwise, we will get stuck with large and creeping fees for airspace usage, etc.

    No point in just complaining about the somewhat erroneous political and social perception of GA—we need to try to change it and strengthen our image.

  28. Maynard McKillen Says:

    Les, you are being generous when you describe the questions that Mr. Fuller comments on as a “survey”. The effort to acquire actionable information was far too tepid, as if the organization doesn’t want to learn, or reveal to AOPA members, how marginalized a lobby it really is.

    Trying to spin these “survey” results into substantial “Good news, AOPA members!” is a bit disingenuous to say the least, much ado about nothing, like trying to polish a kidney stone: the “results” are tiny, can’t be polished, and haven’t acquired any more value through attempts at refining or redefining them.

    Equally amazing is your allegation that Mr. Fuller, and AOPA’s policy-creation mechanism, is nonpartisan. Have you seen his bio? Has he or any of the AOPA management promoted meaningful debate and discussion on ways to end entitlement status for corporate jet use in controlled airspace?

  29. MC Says:

    A president who continually publicly demonizes private jet operators is no friend to GA. Obama has also discontinued LORAN-C and eLoran, and half of the VOR network, the only viable backups to GPS. Obama has done more to harm GA than any other president. AOPA and Craig Fuller will not get our support in regards to the current administration’s policies until they take a stand like NBAA has.

  30. Chris C Says:

    Quoting Harvard McCardle Says:
    “WOW! Now I understand the weak coverage by AOPA of our presidential candidates.”

    I have to agree.

    Mr. Fuller, poor show. I must echo the sentiments of others. My membership is due for renewal in a few days. I have been debating renewing because for the first time in over a decade, I do not feel AOPA is willing to fight for our best interests. From the weak coverage prior to the elections, terrible articles related to the administrations policies effects on GA, and now this completely misleading poorly written article (with an equally poor and seemingly biased title) it has become clear to me that you are involved in nothing more than pandering. At this point, after watching for the past year and adding up all the pieces, to think that you are nonpartisan and putting the best interest of GA and your members first is laughable.

    Others may defend you with “political neutrality”, but that does nothing to put our best interest first, and educate our members about the dangers ahead for GA. “Thinking positively” of GA and wasting members time with “fluff” like this will do nothing to hinder the damaging policies (and effects) of this administration on GA, both those already felt and those to come, and until the AOPA is willing to take a stand I don’t believe I can stand with you. Should the AOPA return true mission, likely after you are replaced, I will be happy to once again support.

  31. Bernie Quanz Says:

    Wow, what a bunch of negative responses.
    It’s just a little positive news, jeez people should be happy about that.
    No, the problems in GA aren’t solved, but get a grip.

  32. Todd A Says:

    I think this is survey bias. Most american’s don’t have a clue what GA is ! At one point in time, “GA” flew more americans to their destinations in one day than any single airline… (maybe not after airline mergers and the decimation of private aviation). If you asked the same people about “small single-engine private airplanes” or “private business aviation” you would probably be saddened by the results. I work in the “Air Capital” of the world, home to 3 major business aircraft manufacturers, where nearly 1 in 10 of the local population work for or are retired from the industry….. and the “average” citezen of Wichita doesn’t know what GA is.

    What concerns me the most is that the “CEO” of AOPA doesn’t know enough to recognize the problem with such a silly survey.

  33. Greg Collins Says:

    I operate a small flight school in North Carolina. I am literally involved with GA, 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. I own and rent out 2 airplanes, and I am the whole business. I started my own business in 1988 after getting out of the Marine Corps. 2012 has been the best year I’ve had, in fact I’ve already made 20% more than my next best year, (2011), and there’s still a month to go.
    I’ve trained more new pilots this year, 41 successful checkrides, than ever before. I don’t see doom and gloom. All around me, money is being spent, and improvements made, on GA airports, KAVL is doing numerous major improvements, KGMU, KLQK, KTOC, KAND, KGYH, all have major new improvements completed, and in progress. These airports are my little world, so I have to assume that everything isn’t falling apart in GA.
    Gas will never be $2.00 a gallon, and there’s no reason why it should be in a free market economy. Around here, $75,000 will buy you 2 older Skyhawks in pretty darn good condition. I run car gas, and have no problem finding it without Ethanol, even though everyone tells me it’s impossible. In fact my source is only a mile from my hangar. All it took was a few phone calls.
    GA is an expensive hobby, so are boats, horses, mountain climbing, scuba diving, skydiving, skiing, golf. Why does everyone think it should be cheap?
    Complaining about Loran being shut down? Really??? Don’t we want the government to cut costs? If you can’t afford a small GPS, you probably can’t afford to fly anyway.
    Be positive, be realistic, find ways to make it work. Moaning and groaning won’t help, and certainly won’t encourage new blood in GA. Why would anyone want to get involved after reading the ridiculous sky is falling comments made by many of the folks on this board.

  34. Don Kartoffel Says:

    Craig,
    Stay out of politics.

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