WASHINGTON — Congress has failed for years to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service, but a new poll Tuesday suggests there is bipartisan support nationally and in Maryland for a handful of well-worn solutions.
An overwhelming majority of Americans, 83 percent, support relaxing a requirement that the USPS pre-fund retiree health benefits, according to a Citizen Cabinet poll conducted by the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.
A similar number of respondents in Maryland recommended ending the congressional requirement -- which has dragged down USPS finances for years -- or reducing it, according to the survey.
Ending letter delivery on Saturdays also won support from a majority of respondents – just over two thirds -- with 75 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats backing the idea. Nine in 10 respondents supported allowing USPS to offer non-postal products, such as photocopying services and Internet access.
"While Congress continues to have trouble finding common ground, a bipartisan majority of citizens is pointing the way to stability for the Postal Service," said Steven Kull, president of the Voice Of the People project that conducted the poll.
The group is testing a new way of polling in three states: Oklahoma, Virginia and Maryland. It focuses on complicated issues with the goal of putting respondents through the same thought process as lawmakers who represent them.
Unlike in a traditional poll, respondents are given background material that has been vetted by Democratic and Republican congressional aides so that all perspectives are included, and they make policy decisions based on their research.
The poll's results came just days after the U.S. Postal Service reported a $1.2 billion operational profit, but a net loss of $5.1 billion – largely due to the retiree health funding requirements. The service delivered 154.2 billion pieces of mail in the last fiscal year, down from 155.5 billion the year before.
The poll was conducted from July 2 through Aug. 12 and has a margin of error for the national results of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.