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Other interesting findings include the following:
23 percent of respondents indicated that improving the quality of public education in kindergarten through 12th grade should be the Legislature’s first priority. This finding is fairly consistent between Democrats (28 percent as first priority), Republicans (22 percent as first priority), and independent voters (23 percent as first priority).
Fifteen percent of respondents selected decreasing pollution as their top priority. This finding was driven by Democrats (29 percent as first priority) and Independent voters (17 percent as first priority). Republican voters didn’t feel as strongly about this issue (7 percent as first priority).
12 percent of respondents indicated that protecting states’ rights should be the top priority. This finding was driven by Republicans (20 percent as first priority) and Independent voters (9 percent as first priority). Democrats (0 percent as first priority) didn’t feel that this is an issue that the Legislature should tackle.
“The Utah clean air rally, Clean Air Caucus and other air quality initiatives appear to be right in sync with public opinion,” said Natalie Gochnour, an associate dean at the David Eccles School of Business, which partnered on this survey. “Cleaning up Utah’s air ranked higher than many issues that usually garner lots of attention like increasing the number of jobs and creating a business-friendly environment.”
It remains to be seen whether these strong sentiments about cleaning up Utah’s air are a consequence of the recent wintertime inversion or if it’s an issue that’s reached a tipping point and will stay until noticeable improvements are made.
“Protecting states’ rights is another area of increasing concern for Utahns,” said Jones. “With federal health reform, same sex marriage, Medicaid expansion, and the federal government’s control over two-thirds of the land in Utah, this is an issue that garners a lot of emotion. Controlling our destiny as a state weighs heavy on peoples’ minds.”
Improving the quality of education at Utah’s colleges and universities ranked 16th among the 20 priorities on the weighted scale. Randy Shumway, president and CEO of the Cicero Group, commented, “It is a bit disheartening to see that only a few people prioritized improving the quality of education at Utah’s colleges and universities. For sustained social and economic growth in Utah, we must substantively improve the relevance and depth of what our populace knows and what they are capable of doing. Higher education and its accompanying lifelong retooling are our best investments for achieving our desired level of continuing prosperity. This data suggest we need to either improve the value of higher education or better communicate higher education’s positive impact, or both.”