The most important issue facing Idaho state government: Improve the quality of public education.

So believe most Idahoans in a new Dan Jones & Associates survey.

Jones asked 641 Idahoans what are the three most important issues facing state government, meaning the Legislature and GOP Gov. Butch Otter.

Jones then listed 21 issues. If the respondent mentioned an issue not listed, then that response was counted in the “other” category.

Jones found:

-- 45 percent of Idahoans mentioned improving public schools as one of their top three issues that government must address – by far the most important issue in the survey.

-- The “other” category came in second, with 30 percent mentioning issues outside of the 21 listed by Jones.

--Down the list, at 24 percent, was “lowering health care costs.”

(Ed note: All of the three “top issues” were counted, so when all votes were tallied the issues total add up to more than 100 percent.)

-- 19 percent said, “investing in transportation infrastructure,” like roads and bridges.

-- 19 percent also said, “make housing more affordable.”

-- Coming in at No. 5, at 16 percent, was increasing the number and quality of jobs.

-- 14 percent said, “protect gun rights.”

-- 12 percent want taxes decreased, coming in at No. 7.

-- And 10 percent list planning for growth as one of their top three issues.

All the other issues listed by Jones had less than 10 percent support, so were not among the top ranks of concerns by Idahoans.

Idaho is a growing state.

But it is also a rural state, with agriculture and ranching being a major industry.

In rural Idaho, like in other rural communities across the country, young folks have a hard time finding quality jobs – and so leave for better opportunities in towns and cities.

There they are finding it difficult to find good housing, and maybe can’t afford to buy a home in a tight real estate market.

Thus the issue of affordable housing being No. 4 concern among Idahoans, Jones found.

Tying at No. 4 at 19 percent is roads.

Idaho, like a number of large western states, is seeing its roads and bridges deteriorating as federal transportation funding has been cut back in recent years.

State and local communities are having to step up with road money – a difficult lift when low-population, large-area states don’t have the tax revenue for replacement of roads and bridges.

Jones polled 641 adults from Step. 26-Oct. 8. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.