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Statewide survey shows Idaho residents are optimistic but concerned about growth

The 2020 Idaho Public Policy Survey shows that the state’s residents remain optimistic about the state’s economic future, continue to cite education as the top priority for the state legislature and are concerned about rapid growth.

Growth was cited as the most important issue facing Idaho, and 57 percent of respondents said they believe Idaho is growing too fast. The survey also assessed the political party affiliation of newcomers to the state in the past decade. It found that 59 percent of them identify as Republicans, compared with 56 percent Republican among those who have lived in the state for more than 10 years; 29 percent of respondents who have lived in the state less than 10 years say they are Democrats, compared with 28 percent of those who have lived in Idaho more than 10 years.

Respondents also showed overwhelming support (86 percent) for banning texting while driving, with this being one of the strongest positive responses in the five-year history of the survey.

Conducted by Boise State University’s School of Public Service, the annual statewide survey focused on important issues facing Idaho including growth, education, taxes and the environment. It was conducted Dec. 5-13, 2019, and included 1,000 adults over the age of 18 who currently live in Idaho. The sample was designed to be representative of the population of the state both geographically and demographically.

“A majority of Idahoans feel the state is headed in the right direction, but they also see some continuing challenges such as education, and some new ones such as the growth we are experiencing,” said Boise State’s Jeffrey Lyons, assistant professor in the School of Public Service and the Idaho Policy Institute’s survey research director. “While the concerns about education appear across the state, it is primarily those who live in the Treasure Valley that cite growth as the biggest issue facing Idaho.”

Key findings include:
• Majorities of Idahoans have positive evaluations of the state. They remain optimistic about the direction that the state is headed (56 percent), feel that the level of taxation is about right (61 percent), and believe that the economy will either continue at its current pace or improve over the next two years (72 percent).
• Education continues to be seen as a weak spot in Idaho. Most perceive the quality of education in the state to be fair or poor (65 percent), and education tops the list of priorities for the state legislature.
• Growth was the most frequently named issue facing the state, and a majority (57 percent) believe that the state is growing too fast.
• Those who have moved to Idaho in the last 10 years are slightly younger and have slightly higher educational attainment than those who have been here for longer, but are very similar in their party affiliation.
• Idahoans are divided on whether dams on the lower Snake River should be removed to aid salmon recovery. Lost hydroelectric power is the most commonly cited reason for opposing dam removal.
• There is overwhelming support (86 percent) for banning texting while driving.
• A majority of Idahoans (63 percent) are satisfied with the current rules for getting an initiative on the ballot for a citizen vote.

The School of Public Service was created in 2015 to serve as an objective and unbiased resource for decision makers throughout Idaho, and to prepare students for lives and careers of ethical and effective public service. Rigorous public opinion research can be a useful tool for discerning the policy preferences and priorities of the public at large.

This mixed-mode survey contacted respondents on land line phones (33 percent), cell phones (33 percent), online (30 percent), and via text message (5 percent). The goal of using multiple means to contact respondents is to increase coverage of the population who may not respond to traditional phone surveys. The survey has a simple random sampling margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent and was conducted by GS Strategies Group.

View the full 2020 report.