The 20th Public Policy Survey from Boise State University has produced a number of results that don't easily match up - pieces that don't seem to make sense together. Blogger Chuck Malloy has written about that on his blog, and concluded that "the survey is a bunch of bull."
A prime piece of evidence, Malloy writes, concerns the finding that fewer Idahoans (49%) think the state is going in the right direction, than have so thought since the polling started. Malloy: "By reading those results, you’d think that Republicans and Democrats would have about equal numbers in the Legislature, and maybe a few Democrats in state offices and the congressional delegation. ... But that is not the case. For the most part, Idahoans voted for the same people who they supposedly were unhappy with, then added a few more Republicans in the Legislature for good measure."
There's a significant point in this, because unhappiness with general direction and political results often match up. They don't in this Idaho survey and haven't for some time.
That doesn't invalidate the survey, however; rather, it says something significant about Idaho (and other places too).
There's a prevailing sense that budget cuts have had major negative effects. "Budget cuts have affected the quality of children’s education" - 75% agree. "The State is investing enough in higher education in Idaho" - 59% disagree. But: "Idaho should raise the sales tax by $0.01 to help close the budget gap" - 56% disagree.
Or this. "Idaho should be able to opt out of the 2010 health care bill" - 58% agree. While: "Public funds should be used to help provide health insurance to people who cannot afford it" - 63% agree.
Or this. "Idaho should pass a law concerning illegal immigrants similar to the law Arizona recently passed" - 58% agree. While: "A program should be created that would allow illegal immigrants to stay in this country permanently" - 73% agree.
Polling in other states and nationally have found similar kinds of results - contradictory all over the place - though some of the Idaho results, considering the elective officials in place, may be especially noteworthy. The point is that many people do not put the pieces together. They want the services they count on, but don't like to pay for them. And so on. What do the people want from their elected officials? Who can say? "The people" don't seem to have figured it out. Will they be happier if the Idaho Legislature slashes programs than if it raised taxes? Odds are, they wouldn't be happy either way. In which case, what difference does it make who you vote for?
The polling suggests an underlying problem: A disconnect between causes and effects, between money and "policy" on one hand and real world impacts on the other. Those connections are real. But a lot of people seem not to have linked those pieces together.