"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Matching the numbers

The most interesting parts of the multi-newspaper poll in Idaho released last week are less the answers to individual questions, than answers when compared to one another.

There was, for example, the 59% to 23% margin in favor of the core revenue decision made by the Idaho Legislature and Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter this year – to not raise taxes.

However, 56% said that school spending in Idaho was too low, compared to 12% too high and 23% “about right”. This session’s cut of public schools funding similarly was opposed by 59% to 27% in favor. Since public schools make up about half of the state’s general fund, where did these voters think the money was supposed to come from?

One of the basic questions in a political poll (this one, by the way, was conducted by the reputable Mason-Dixon Polling and Research company) has to do with party identification. This one showed statewide respondents at 47% Republican, 22% Democratic and 31% independent or other. Not shocking numbers (though underscoring the structural difficulty Democrats face in Idaho).

Now consider a few other items. 59% opposed the 17th amendment repeal backed by the state GOP; a plurality of 40% opposed (to 36% in favor) a prospective amendment to seek state authority to take over federal lands.

Asked if they “generally support the agenda of the Tea Party movement,” 48% said yes (to 37% no). But how many Idahoans in the group considered themselves members of the Tea Party? Just 7% – and even among self-identified Republicans the number rises only to 11%.

There’s a term called “cognitive dissonance.” Idaho political strategists may want to familiarize themselves with it.

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