BSU public policy survey

Professor Jeffrey Lyons of the Boise State University School of Public Service presents the results of the annual BSU Public Policy Survey on Thursday.

BOISE — Idahoans strongly favor state funding for early childhood education, according to the latest Boise State University public policy survey, but not if it would mean cutting into other education funding.

The statewide survey of 1,004 Idahoans found 60.7 percent support for state funding for pre-kindergarten, for which Idaho currently provides no funding, one of only half a dozen states that don’t.

When respondents were asked if they’d support allocating that funding even if it meant they’d pay more in taxes, a majority — 54.2 percent — still backed state funding for pre-K.

But, said Professor Jeffrey Lyons of the BSU School of Public Service, “Shifting money from other education to pay for it is unpopular.” Just 29.5 percent of respondents said they’d favor that.

The highest support of all came when respondents were asked if they supported increasing funding for early childhood education in order to give local school districts the flexibility to fund programs designed to ensure children are reading proficiently by the third grade. A full 77 percent supported that, more than three-quarters.

That position echoes statements new Gov. Brad Little made on the campaign trail as he ran for governor.

BSU has conducted its annual public policy survey for several decades, though there was a break for several years; the current form of the survey has been done each year for the past four years. Some of the overall questions have turned up consistent results over the years: Idahoans overall believe the state is headed in the right direction, not off on the wrong track; and they see education as by far the top issue facing the state.

Asked what the state Legislature should be addressing, education came out on top again, followed by jobs and the economy, and then health care.

The survey found that 59.5 percent of Idahoans believe the state is moving in the right direction; while just 29.6 percent said it was on the wrong track. “Comparatively speaking, these are pretty good numbers for the state of Idaho,” Lyons said. In a major national poll just last week, he said, only 36 percent of Americans said the United States is on the right track. “So compared to how people feel nationally, these are relatively positive numbers,” he said. “A lot of states would really love to have these numbers.”

Among other issues included in the survey was local-option taxation; more than 60 percent said they either strongly or somewhat favored allowing cities to ask voters to decide whether to impose a local sales tax.

Asked about renewable energy, 42.7 percent strongly favored the state transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2050, while another 28.5 percent were somewhat in favor of that. When asked if they’d support that even if it increased their power bill, a majority still supported it, but it was a smaller majority, with 28.9 percent strongly in favor and 26.7 percent somewhat in favor.

In addition, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they’d support the state using more solar power.

The survey was conducted from Dec. 10 to Jan. 18; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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