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Boise State’s 20th Idaho Public Policy Survey Reveals Residents’ Views on State Governance

Boise State University’s Public Policy Center today released preliminary findings from its 20th Idaho Public Policy Survey, providing an overview of public opinion about a wide range of policies, issues and trends that impact the governance of the State of Idaho.

Conducted in November and December, the survey of 525 randomly selected Idaho residents focused on key issues being discussed by policy makers and pundits across the nation, including the economy, tax and spending policies, health care, education and immigration. This preliminary release of 17 questions also included general topics on people’s attitudes and philosophies about government, questions that long have been part of the survey and offer historical perspective on Idahoans’ viewpoints on government.

“It’s very important to us to be relevant to today’s discussions, but at the same time be able to provide perspective on how attitudes shift and change over time,” said Stephanie Witt, director of Boise State’s Public Policy Center. “We hope this survey offers very interesting and useful insight into the way Idahoans view their government and the policies it pursues.”

A central finding was that just 49 percent of those polled felt that the state is headed in the right direction, a significant drop from 2007 (when 67 percent approved of the state’s direction) and the highest percentage of disapproval recorded since the question was first asked in 1997. Analysts of the survey results said evidence for the reason behind the dissatisfaction might be found in other survey questions about the economy and the government’s posture on related issues.

For example, 56 percent of those polled said that their household has been impacted by cuts in state programs and services, while 51 percent said that jobs, the economy and wages are the most important issues facing Idaho today. Additionally, 56 percent feel that budget cuts have affected the quality of their children’s education, and 50 percent believe the state is not doing enough to spur economic development in their region.

Another indicator, according to Carole Nemnich, associate director of the Public Policy Center, could be significant growth among survey respondents who identify themselves as politically independent.

“The responses on the economy and the shifts in political identification seem to indicate that people are relatively dissatisfied,” said Nemnich.
In all, the survey included approximately 40 questions. Remaining data will be released through the spring as analysis becomes available, including regional breakdowns for the eastern, southwestern and northern sections of Idaho.

Other survey findings released today include:

Immigration
•    Two-thirds of survey respondents (67 percent) think immigration is a problem in Idaho.
•    Just over 62 percent believe counties should deny indigent health services to undocumented workers; 31 percent disagree.
•    58 percent of respondents think Idaho should pass an immigration law similar to one recently enacted in Arizona, and 55 percent think such a law would reduce illegal immigration.
•    More than 7 of 10 respondents (73 percent) think that a program should be created to allow illegal immigrants to stay in this country permanently.
Health care
•    Idaho should be allowed to opt out of the 2010 federal health care reform law, according to 58 percent of survey respondents.
•    63 percent believe that public funds should be used to help provide health insurance to people who cannot afford it.
Taxes/spending
•    56 percent of respondents think that raising the state sales tax by $0.01 to help close the budget gap is a bad idea; 39 percent think it is a good idea.
Education
•    53 percent think Idaho should raise the sales tax to support the K-12 public school budget, while 42 percent disagree.
•    59 percent say the state is not investing enough in higher education, while 32 percent disagree.

To see more of the preliminary survey results and learn more about Boise State’s Public Policy Center, visit http://sspa.boisestate.edu/publicpolicycenter/.

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Media Contact: Mike Journee, University Communications, (208) 426-1517, mikejournee@boisestate.edu

About Boise State University

As an emerging metropolitan research university of distinction, Boise State University plays a crucial role in the region’s economic development and famed quality of life. Idaho’s largest institution of higher education offers nearly 200 degrees and certificates in seven colleges. While remaining committed to the strong teaching legacy that has resulted in 11 Idaho Professor of the Year awards since 1990, Boise State’s added emphasis on innovation and creativity is fueling the fastest growing research program in Idaho.

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