Education Is Idahoans' Top Priority, Survey Finds

Jan 25, 2019

60 percent of the state thinks Idaho is moving in the right direction, according to a new statewide survey from Boise State University’s School of Public Policy.

Boise State political science professor Jeff Lyons helped oversee the university’s fourth annual survey.

“Something that stood out to me is actually how little changed from last year – the fact that people have been pretty satisfied with the direction the state is going in and they continue to be pretty satisfied with the direction the state is going in,” Lyons says.

Still, there were some issues the more than 1,000 respondents from all across the state mentioned – education being number one.

More than half of people support raising taxes to pay for early childhood education. 77 percent would support that money going to help students read proficiently by third grade – something Gov. Brad Little (R) has dedicated $13.2 million for in his proposed budget, though that money could not be spent on pre-school programs under current state law.

More than 60 percent of those who answered the survey also support legalizing local option taxes for Idaho towns and cities – at least in theory.

“Philosophically speaking, people like the idea of being allowed to vote on something,” Lyons says.

A divide comes when people were asked whether they’d support any local option tax being raised, versus one for a specific purpose. About half of people would back raising taxes to boost public transit funding.

That’s significant, as proponents like Boise Mayor Dave Bieter have said they want a statewide ballot measure to legalize local option taxes.

On the criminal justice side, 56 percent of those participating in the survey favor judges having complete discretion in criminal sentencing, yet 71 percent favor minimum and maximum sentencing limits.

21 percent either don’t know or won’t say whether Idaho criminal punishments are appropriate. An equal number believe punishments are either too lenient or too harsh, while just over a third believe sentences are correct.

The Idaho legislature has grappled with whether to cut out mandatory minimums for certain nonviolent crimes in recent years in an effort to ease overcrowding in county jails and state prisons.

As one of the fastest-growing state in the nation, growth surged ahead as the fourth-most mentioned issue facing Idaho. Boise State is expected to release a Treasure Valley-specific survey soon that will touch on that issue more in-depth.

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