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Here are Five Big Takeaways from Boise State's 2019 Idaho Public Policy Survey


  • Kelsey Hawes
Pointing to a blue, orange and white ring beamed onto a screen behind him by a projector, Boise State University Associate Professor Jeffrey Lyons noted that, according to the most recent data, Idahoans overwhelmingly believe the Gem State is headed in the right direction.

"Compared to how people think nationally, these are positives," he said.

It's true. According to the 2019 Idaho Public Policy Survey, which Lyons rolled out at the Idaho Statehouse on Jan. 24, 59.4 percent of the survey's 1,000 respondents believe the state is moving toward a brighter future. The same can't be said for the U.S. generally: Gallup pegs overall satisfaction with the direction the country is going in at 26 percent.

The particulars, however, have made the unveiling of Boise State's survey a bellwether for the Idaho Legislature—a preview of the big topics backed by hard data on public opinion.

Here are some of the big takeaways from the study this year:

Education is the most important issue to Idahoans by a landslide. Nearly a quarter (24.7 percent) of respondents said it was the No. 1 topic. When asked to rate the biggest issues on a scale of 1 to 10, education averaged 8.8.

"That means you have a large percentage of respondents saying this is a 9 or a 10," Lyons said.

Idahoans would raise taxes to increase funding for early childhood education. It's one thing for people to say they want something, and quite another for them to say they'd pay extra for it (i.e. the City of Boise's Foothills levy). The survey's respondents were randomly divided into three groups, each asked a different question about ECE funding: Would they pay more in taxes for ECE or reduce the amount of money spent on other educational programs? What if ECE money went to local school districts to fund efforts to ensure children were reading proficiently by the third grade? The percentage of responses in favor of raising taxes to fund ECE was 54.2 percent, but respondents balked at ECE funding cutting into existing education programs, with 59.8 saying that would be the wrong tack.

Idahoans approve of local option taxes, but resistance to LOTs is also strong. The Idaho Legislature's thus far-prohibitive stance on local option taxes has been a perennial hurdle to local municipalities—not least of all Boise, where voters have, on more than one occasion, fund popular city initiatives without having a LOT. In the latest statewide survey,  28.5 percent of respondents "strongly favor" and 32.9 percent "somewhat favor" allowing cities to vote on their implementation, with total favorability being 61.4 percent, which is slightly down from 2018, when 66.1 percent of respondents approved of LOTs. The real takeaway, however, is the level of resistance to LOTs, with 13.5 percent "somewhat opposing" and 20.4 percent "strongly opposing" allowing voters to approve LOTs.

"Folks who oppose that feel that way a little more deeply," Lyons said.

People in the Gem State like the idea of relying more on clean energy—but not so much if it means higher power bills. Climate change is a global concern, and countries around the world have vowed to cut their carbon emissions, while transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, like solar and wind. The issue, however, remains controversial in Idaho, where some lawmakers still deny scientific consensus that humans are a driving force behind the potentially catastrophic phenomenon. Respondents were asked if they supported or opposed the state completely pivoting to clean energy by 2050, and 42.7 percent "strongly favor" and 25.8 percent "somewhat favor" that proposal (68.5 percent in total). When it comes to paying higher power bills to implement clean energy sources, favorability was less rosy, with 28.9 percent "strongly" and 26.7 percent "somewhat" in favor (55.6 percent in total). The opposition filled the gap, with 14.4 percent "somewhat" and 24.5 percent "strongly" opposing (39 percent in total).

Net metering isn't about internet speeds. For years, there has been a tug of war between people who generate solar power from home and the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Idaho Power. As home solar power generation becomes more popular (i.e. the Snake River Alliance's Solarize the Valley program), the PUC has sometimes taken some  steps regarding "net metering"—giving home generators credit on their power bills for electricity they pump back into the grid. The public at large is almost entirely in support of net metering, with 69.8 percent "strongly" and 21.8 percent "somewhat" in favor of it (91.6 percent in total).

See related PDF Idaho-Public-Policy-web.pdf See related PDF 2019-Statewide-Topline_Public.pdf