"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

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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