Idaho GOP legislators may have some answering to do before their constituents, especially members of their own party, a new Idaho Politics Weekly poll shows.

The Legislature – strongly controlled by Republicans – adjourned April 11. And after they left pollster Dan Jones & Associates polled 606 Idaho adults on a number of issues (which will be detailed in this and subsequent stories).

Jones’ poll was conducted April 22-30, so respondents had some time to learn about and reflect upon the Legislature’s actions. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percent.

Overall, Idaho Democrats give the GOP-controlled Legislature higher grades than do Republicans, a strange and interesting outcome, Jones found.

Of specific interest:

  • 55 percent of all Idahoans “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose the Legislature’s 7-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax hike, Jones found.
  • 41 percent support the tax hike, 5 percent “didn’t know.”

Clearly, lawmakers are out front of public opinion on the need for a significant gasoline tax increase, the poll shows.

For GOP legislators, it is worse:

  • 58 percent of Republicans oppose the tax hike, only 38 percent support it, while 3 percent didn’t know.
  • Democrats are split over the gas tax, 48 percent support it, 47 percent oppose and 5 percent don’t know.
  • Among political independents, 55 percent oppose it, 39 percent support it and 6 percent don’t know.
  • Jones found that two-thirds of those who said they belong to “another political party” oppose the tax hike (these are traditionally parties more conservative than the Republicans), only 34 percent support the tax hike and 6 percent didn’t know.

The Idaho Legislature tends to be conservative, and Jones found that 66 percent of Idahoans who said they are “very conservative” politically oppose the gasoline tax increase, only 31 percent of “very conservative” residents favor the tax hike.

Jones found more support among Republicans and conservatives for two other major political issues in the 2015 Idaho Legislature: public education funding and teacher pay hikes.

Lawmakers adopted a new teacher pay career ladder plan costing $125 million and raising pay across the board for new and older teachers.

Fifty-two percent of Idahoans said the teacher pay plan was “about right.”

Ten percent said it was definitely or probably too big of a pay increase, while a third said it was definitely or probably too little of a pay increase.

Overall, legislators increased the funding for public education next fiscal year by 7.4 percent – a fairly good jump historically.

Jones found:

  • 45 percent said the increase was “about right.”
  • 11 percent said it was too much.
  • But 40 percent said it was too little, showing the support in the community for significant more monies going into public schools.

Unlike the gas tax hike, Republicans support the teacher pay increases:

  • Only 10 percent said it was too much.
  • 52 percent it was “about right.”
  • And 25 percent said it was too little.

While the 7.4 percent increase to public education funding historically is a pretty good increase, many Idahoans say that is not good enough.

Jones found:

  • While 45 percent said the 7.4 percent was “about right,” 40 percent said it was too little. Eleven percent said it was too much.
  • Among Republicans: 53 percent said it was about right, 13 percent said it was too much and 30 percent said it was too little.
  • Democrats found the Legislature’s public education funding wanting: 64 percent said it was too little, only 30 percent said it was “about right,” while 3 percent said it was too much.
  • Political independents are split: 42 percent said the 7.4 percent increase was “about right,” 39 percent said it was too little while 12 percent said it was too much.

The feelings above were reflected when Jones asked respondents to give the 2015 Legislature a letter grade for the work done by lawmakers.

And it’s not very good.

(Legislators didn’t decide on Medicaid expansion to provide health care to Idaho’s poorer citizens, also leaving a bad public taste, apparently.)

  • 30 percent give lawmakers a “C” grade – or average.
  • Only 3 percent give the Legislature an “A,” 16 percent give it a “B.” Combined, that is 19 percent ranking the 2015 Legislature above average.
  • 14 percent give lawmakers a “D” grade, 10 percent give it an “F.” So a quarter of all Idahoans rank the 2015 Legislature below average.

As noted, lawmakers didn’t decide on Medicaid expansion and a few other tough issues.

Accordingly, 12 percent of Idahoans give the Legislature an “incomplete” – meaning more work should be done this year.

And 14 percent said they didn’t know what kind of grade the Legislature should get.

Even though their party controls the Legislature, Republicans didn’t give lawmakers very good grades, either. (Remember the bad GOP attitudes on the gas tax.)

  • 10 percent of Republicans give the Legislature an A or a B. Thirty-four percent give it a C. Twenty-eight percent give it a D or an F. And 12 percent gave it an “incomplete.”
  • Democrats are happier with the GOP-controlled Legislature than are Republicans.
  • 23 percent give the Legislature an A. Twenty-three percent give it a B. That’s 43 percent who give lawmakers above average grade.
  • 23 percent also give lawmakers a C grade.
  • Only 7 percent of Democrats give a D, and 2 percent give an F. Twelve percent give an “incomplete.”

So, Idaho Democrats by far like the work of the GOP-controlled Legislature a lot more than do Idaho Republicans.

Interesting, is it not?

It’s these kinds of insights that Idaho Politics Weekly is glad to bring to the attention of Idaho political insiders and regular citizens; polling that has not been done in the Gem State for many years.

And we thank Zions Bank and Dan Jones & Associates for their support in this endeavor.