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Boise State Rolls Out Public Policy Survey With Findings on Education, Health Care, Refugees

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- Justin Vaughn, co-director of Boise State University's Center for Idaho History and Politics, presented the results of the survey. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Justin Vaughn, co-director of Boise State University's Center for Idaho History and Politics, presented the results of the survey.
By a number of measures, the Gem State is "headed in the right direction," according to a public policy survey conducted in December by Boise State University and presented Friday morning at the Idaho Legislature.

Presented by Dr. Justin Vaughn, a professor and co-director of the Boise State Center for Idaho History and Politics, the 2017 Idaho Public Policy Survey showed 61.7 percent of 1,000 respondents said Idaho is on the right track—but that doesn't mean there aren't areas of concern for Idahoans. Among them are health care, climate change and Idaho's acceptance of refugees, which has "particularly polarized" people across the state, Vaughn said.

"There's an interesting mix of results about the refugee 'crisis,'" he said.

Gem State residents were polled via landline and cellular telephones, and were asked questions about the economy, what they view as top legislative priorities, transportation and education, and hot button issues like refugees and the Affordable Care Act, which incoming President Donald Trump has vowed to repeal.

The survey was meant to serve as a "policy indicator" that "focus[es] on things that are likely to be considered" by the Idaho Legislature, which convened Jan. 9.

Results regarding refugees showed deep fissures among Idahoans about approval of displaced people and their role in society. A slim majority—51.1 percent—said they favor allowing refugees from other countries to resettle in Idaho, but the most favored response (30.5 percent of respondents) said they "strongly oppose" refugee resettlement. The most concentrated opposition to resettlement was in northern Idaho, with an opposition rate of 52.6 percent. Favorability of resettlement was highest in Ada County, with approval at 63.8 percent.

Other results on contentious issues include:
  • 72 percent of Idahoans believe climate change is taking place;
  • 48.6 percent of Idahoans who believe climate change is taking place said humans and natural causes are contributing factors;
  • 87.4 percent said they favor guaranteed health insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions;
  • 75.9 percent said they favor allowing children to stay on their parents' health insurance until they're 26 years old;
  • 51.2 percent said they favor continuing Idaho's health insurance exchange, Your Health Idaho;
  • 70.8 percent said they favor the Legislature taking action to provide the 78,000 Idahoans who lack affordable, comprehensive health coverage with access to quality health care
Asked to rank "the most important issue[s] facing Idaho today," the largest percentage of respondents (26.5 percent) put education at the top followed by the economy (17.6 percent) and health care (6.3 percent). Ranking Idaho's education system, 36.6 percent of respondents described it as "fair"—an increase of approximately 8 percent over the 2016 survey—but 49.2 percent said individual school districts shouldn't raise additional money on top of state education spending. More than half of respondents—54.1 percent—said the state should establish early childhood education programs statewide. Respondents tended to have a higher opinion of education in their own school districts than education in Idaho as a whole.

"People know their districts more," Vaughn said. "You experienced it, but when you talk about education in Idaho, what you know is what you've heard."

Idahoans had strong opinions about health care, which Vaughn said is "an issue on the rise," with 70.5 percent of Idahoans saying the Legislature should address the issue.

"We're seeing a significant increase in demand for action on health care policy," said Vaughn, who described the results as "eye-catching."

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