Boise State researchers found partisan divides on virus — and schooling during a pandemic

Republicans and parents are more likely to support in-person learning, according to a new statewide Boise State University survey.

The sixth edition of Boise State’s Idaho Public Policy Survey was conducted from Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, as public schools across the state continued to wrestle with reopening issues amidst rising coronavirus cases. At the time, three large Treasure Valley school districts — Boise, Nampa and Caldwell — had shifted to online learning.

Boise State researchers asked 1,000 Idahoans about their preferences for K-12 instruction. They found sharp divisions along party lines, and found parents were more likely to support all in-person instruction.

Preference All Idahoans Republicans Democrats K-12 parents
Mixed learning 43 percent 36 percent 46 percent 38 percent
All in-person 33 percent 50 percent 10 percent 42 percent
All online 20 percent 8 percent 37 percent 16 percent

The survey, released last week, found Idahoans divided on the coronavirus — and its effects. In all, 38 percent of Idahoans said they were most concerned about the pandemic’s economic impacts, followed by concerns about the impact on children (31 percent) and health impacts (28 percent).

Here again, researchers found a partisan shift. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans said they were most concerned about the pandemic’s impact on education, compared to 23 percent of Democrats. Republicans were also more likely to express concern about the economic impacts, while Democrats said they were more concerned about the health impacts of the virus.

Despite the pandemic, many general opinions on education didn’t change too much from 2019 to 2020.

  • Idahoans again listed education as the most important topic for legislators to address. Respondents were asked to score a variety of issues on a 10-point score; 72 percent gave education a score of eight or higher. A year ago, 74 percent of respondents gave education a score of eight or higher.
  • Idahoans gave the K-12 system slightly higher marks in 2020: 35 percent of respondents said the state’s schools were “good” or “excellent,” compared to 28.5 percent a year ago. However, the most common response was “fair.” Thirty-four percent of respondents rated the K-12 system as “fair,” while 23 percent said the system was “poor.”
  • Respondents were more likely to give their neighborhood schools high marks: 46 percent said local schools were “good” or “excellent.”
  • One change came this year when parents were asked to grade their local schools. This year, 55 percent of parents with K-12 students rated their local schools as “good” or “excellent.” A year ago, only 38 percent of parents with children under 18 rated local schools as “good” or “excellent.”

The Boise State survey uses phone, online and text responses, and is designed to reach a geographic and demographic sample of the population. The responses have a margin of error of about 3 percent.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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