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Eye On Boise

New BSU survey: Idahoans think state’s on right track, but want action on health care, extension of surplus eliminator

Idahoans think the state is generally on the right track, according to the latest Idaho Policy Survey, published today by Boise State University. “They’re also optimistic about the future,” said BSU political science Professor Justin Vaughn. “This was true from last year when we did this study, it’s even more so this year.”

The survey, which interviewed 1,000 Idahoans across the state in December, found that 61.7 percent believe the state is on the right track – up 4.7 percent from last year’s figure. “That’s a statistically significant, outside-the-margin-of-errors movement,” Vaughn said.

The survey also had some significant findings about Idaho’s health coverage gap and funding for roads. An even bigger percentage – 70.8 percent – want action to close the gap, which consists of 78,000 residents who make too much to qualify for the state’s limited Medicaid program, but too little to be eligible for subsidized insurance through the state’s Your Health Idaho insurance exchange. Only 22 percent dissented.

And asked how important they believe it is for Idaho to address health care issues, on a scale from 1 to 10, 70.5 percent of respondents chose 8, 9 or 10. That’s up from 59.3 percent last year. “The rise of concern about the state doing something on health care policy in particular was noteworthy,” Vaughn said.

He presented the results of the survey at a Statehouse press conference today. Vaughn said another striking finding from the survey was that while most methods of funding road improvements proved highly unpopular in the survey – including raising gas taxes or registration fees and tapping the state general fund – 71.7 percent favored reauthorizing the two-year “surplus eliminator” bill that lawmakers enacted in 2015, with just 21.5 percent preferring to let it expire. That measure split any unexpected year-end surplus 50-50 between road and bridge projects and state savings accounts; it’s now expired, unless lawmakers decide to continue it.

“Considering that all of the other funding alternatives are pretty unpopular, this is kind of a significant finding,” Vaughn said.

This year’s survey, conducted by Boise State University’s School of Public Service, surveyed Idaho adults, regardless of whether or not they vote. It was geographically balanced to represent all counties proportionately to their population, to ensure both urban and rural populations were sampled throughout the state; and was split 58.1 percent on landline phone surveys, and 41.3 percent on cell phones, to reflect Idaho’s high numbers of cell-phone-only households. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

The survey found education the top issue that respondents believe need to be addressed, something that’s been consistent in BSU’s surveys over the years; that was followed by the economy and health care. On taxes, it found that 65.3 percent of respondents said Idaho’s taxes are about right, while 22.6 percent said they’re too high and 9.1 percent thought they were too low. Respondents were divided about refugee resettlement, but those who had had contact with refugees in Idaho reported their experiences were strongly positive.

 “Policy makers and citizens alike can view the results of this survey as the most accurate snapshot available about how Idahoans feel about the important policy issues of the moment,” said Vaughn. “Because of the large size of the survey and its representativeness across the entire state, we can be confident when we see public support for action on some issues such as health care and education while we also see the public generally satisfied with other issues, such as size of the state budget and the amount of tax revenue the state takes in.”  

You can see the full survey results online here.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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