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Eye On Boise

New poll: 67% of Idahoans say discrimination against gays should be illegal

A new poll by Utah pollster Dan Jones & Associates shows that two-thirds of Idahoans believe it should be against state law to discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender people in housing, employment and business. The poll, which queried 520 Idaho adults in late December and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent, found that 67 percent thought such discrimination should be illegal; while 27 percent didn’t; and 6 percent didn’t know.

The poll was commissioned by Idaho Politics Weekly, a new online newsletter created by Zions Bank, that is promising monthly research from the prominent Utah polling firm. Utah-based Zions Bank opened a striking new headquarters building in downtown Boise in the past year that’s among the tallest skyscrapers in Idaho, and has been expanding into the state. The bank said the newsletter will include original content along with aggregated headlines and links about Idaho politics and policy.

“As sponsor, Zions Bank is not endorsing or taking positions on public policy issues,” publisher LaVar Webb wrote on the bank’s website. “Rather, the bank views this newsletter as an extension of its guiding principles to be involved in the community and provide needed services. Idaho Politics Weekly is not partisan or ideological and is not a traditional journalistic endeavor. It is intended to serve the public policy community with news and information.”

The poll findings are significant as Idaho’s legislative session opens with promises from legislative leaders that a full hearing on the “Add the Words” bill – legislation to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, to outlaw discrimination on those bases – will be held this year. The bill has been proposed for each of the past nine years, but never got a hearing. During last year’s session, more than 100 people were arrested in protests demanding that the bill be heard.

The poll showed that support for making such discrimination illegal stretched across all political lines, with 58 percent of Republicans supporting it, 87 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents and 52 percent of those who described themselves as “very conservative.” The poll also found that 64 percent of Idaho Mormons who said they were “very active” in their church supported making such discrimination illegal. Idaho Mormons who said they were “not active” in their church were 80 percent in favor; Catholics, 71 percent; Protestants, 57 percent; members of other religious denominations, 73 percent; and respondents not affiliated with any religion, 75 percent.

The Zions survey is consistent with other Idaho polls, and suggests support for banning discrimination against gays in increasing. In 2008, the Boise State University public policy survey queried Idahoans about whether they thought it should be illegal to fire someone because they are, or are perceived to be, gay or lesbian. Sixty-three percent said yes.

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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