The main reason people say they live in Idaho is family and quality of life, but for some, it’s politics.
That’s according to Boise State University’s 2022 Idaho Public Policy Survey. The survey of 1,000 Idaho residents found 5.4% of respondents said political climate was the main reason they were in the state, ahead of factors like cost of living, school or taxes.
It might not seem like much (about 45% said “family”), but political climate was the fifth most common response. “People are identifying the political culture of Idaho as attractive,” said Jaclyn Kettler, a political science associate professor at Boise State.
Republicans hold every statewide office and supermajorities in the state legislature, and former President Donald Trump won Idaho in 2020 by nearly 64%. The state is such a conservative beacon in the region that a group of rural, conservatives Oregonians are trying to join.
“Historically, it was my understanding not that many people were moving to another state for political reasons, this is something that we’re starting to see people say,” Kettler said.
Idahoans are more politically active than the average American. The Boise State survey found 22% donated money to a political cause or party in the past year, eight points higher than the national level, 32% contacted a public official in the past year, nine points higher than the national level.
“There were several really high-profile issues in last year’s legislative session, education being one of them, debates about critical race theory funding, public education in general, but we also had a lot of focus on things like COVID vaccine mandates and masking,” Kettler said.
The 2022 Idaho legislative session opened earlier this month, and the top issue voters would like lawmakers to address is education, according to the survey. More than a quarter said they’d like the state to use a $1.5 trillion surplus to increase teacher pay.
In his State of the State address, Idaho Gov. Brad Little called education one of two top priorities, along with infrastructure. He also called for $47 million in ongoing funding to literacy programs and $50 million in grants for parents for computers, tutoring and other student needs.
Idaho grew by 2.9% last year, the fastest rate in the country, and residents seem torn. The Boise State survey found 71% believe Idaho is growing too fast, but nearly 60% think Idaho should continue to recruit companies with high paying jobs to the state, even if it means population growth.
“We want growth and the way that it can provide benefits and help us move forward, but at the same time, we’re really struggling with consequences of fast growth,” Kettler said.
The survey was conducted Nov. 13-21, 2021 among 1,000 adults who live in Idaho.