The fears of supporters of Superintendent Tom Lunas 2011 school reforms were realized in a new poll conducted for the Idaho Statesman.
Propositions 1 and 2 are close, with Prop 1 trailing by 4 percentage points and Prop 2 ahead by 3 points. Proposition 3 is behind by 7 points.
A relatively high number of undecideds is a bad sign for Luna, said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker, who said those voters typically break by a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 margin for the no vote.
The fact that all the results are close is misleading, Coker said. The truth is that all three face a stiff uphill battle. All things being equal, they are likely to lose by margins much larger than what these numbers show.
Coker pointed to lukewarm support among Lunas fellow Republicans for the three laws that erase union bargaining rights, provide bonuses to about 80 percent of teachers and mandate online courses and laptops for every high school student.
Proponents are going to have to outspend the opponents by a large margin to convince Republican voters to get behind these propositions.
Through Sept. 30, opponents outraised proponents, $1.38 million to $501,000.
That news prompted Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot, who has already spent over $200,000, to say hell boost his support for the measures.
I think were way behind, VanderSloot told the Statesman Thursday. I think if you were to take a survey today, youd find that everybodys confused.
Taken together, the pollsters asked if the propositions would improve the quality of education in Idahos K-12 public schools. Forty-four percent said no, 39 percent said yes, and 17 percent said they were not sure.
The statewide poll was conducted Monday through Wednesday with interviews of 625 registered and likely voters. It has a margin for error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Fifty percent of those polled called themselves Republicans, 28 percent said they were independent or belonged to third parties, and 22 percent identified as Democrats.
While Democrats oppose all three propositions by large margins, Republicans are divided. Thats despite vigorous support from Luna and his fellow Republican Gov. Butch Otter to sustain the laws that were put on the ballot by 74,000 voter signatures.
Among Republicans, Prop 1 (unions) is ahead 46 percent to 36 percent; Prop 2 (bonuses) leads 51-32; and Prop 3 (laptops) leads 48-37. Democrats oppose the measures 56-25, 56-21 and 76-18 percent, respectively. Independents oppose Prop 1 42-35, favor Prop 2 43-39 and oppose Prop 3 44-42.
Steve Cooper of Weiser reflects the ambiguity voters feel for the three measures. A retired salesman and teacher, he favors the technology law, opposes the bonuses and is undecided on the labor law.
I believe the unions need to be there, but they can carry too far, said Cooper, 66, explaining his uncertainty.
Linda Young of Nampa, a homemaker and mother of seven, said she favors ending renewable contracts, commonly known as tenure, for teachers. But shes against the technology mandates.
Just because a teachers worked 10 years, they shouldnt automatically not have to worry about keeping a job, said Young, 57. But do I think they should buy every child a laptop? No. I think most households have a laptop.
Barbara Rieb of Idaho Falls supports all three propositions. A retired librarian and mother of two, Rieb said, There are some teachers that simply should be let go.
But reflecting the weakest support of the three measures, Rieb said, I have some concerns about giving every kid a computer.
Yolanda Lopez of Rupert is firmly opposed to the laws. I certainly dont think that a laptop can substitute for live instruction.
Lopez, 56, has three children and said Idaho schools are underfunded, compared to California, the state she left for Idaho in 1984. I was shocked that my kids had to provide their own supplies.
Debbie Shell, a part-time instructor at Idaho State University in Pocatello, said Lunas surprise introduction of the 2011 laws troubles her. I think some of the underlying ideas are OK, but laws should be made with a consensus of all the players instead of behind closed doors. Many heads are better than one.
Mitt Romney leads President Barack Obama by a 63 percent to 27 percent margin in one of the nations most reliable GOP states. Among men, Romney leads 70 percent to 20 percent; among women, 57-33.
Rieb, who is 78 and still skis, said, Obama has done a horrible job. Obamacare is going to be a nightmare, especially for seniors. And hes divided the country.
Young also backs Romney. Hes so much more capable. Hes got a business mind and he doesnt have any problems with cutting things we cant pay for.
Shawn Garai, 42, of Lewiston, is with the president. I dont trust Republicans. I think Baracks done a decent job with what hes had. I think Mitt Romney will screw everything back up.
Despite the outspoken leadership of Idahos two senior congressional Republicans, Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson, a substantial plurality reject their call for a mix of spending cuts and tax cuts to reduce the national debt.
Forty-seven percent said reductions should come exclusively through cuts. Just 27 favor reductions primarily through cuts in federal spending, but with some increases in federal taxes.
Another 11 percent back equal reductions in spending and tax increases, and 10 percent support primarily relying on tax increases on those earning the highest incomes.
This is Idaho, said David George of Idaho Falls, a retired meteorologist for the federal government who favors the Crapo-Simpson approach.
STATE TAX CUTS?
There was no consensus on which tax cuts would be best to attract newcomers and business to Idaho.
Twenty-nine percent favor property tax cuts, 24 percent back income tax reductions, and 22 percent prefer lowering sales taxes; 21 percent said dont cut taxes.
The poll showed support for an Idaho-run health insurance exchange and opposition to expanding Idahos Medicaid program two choices the state must make because of the 2010 health care reform law.
Almost half of those polled want Idaho to run its own insurance exchange, a marketplace where consumers buy health plans, with some getting income subsidies.
Medicaid is a state-federal health insurance for the poor. Idahos program covers poor children, the disabled and poor pregnant mothers. Up to 150,000 but more likely around 110,000 poor Idahoans would become eligible for the expanded Medicaid program, mostly at a cost to the federal government.
Half of polled voters in Idaho dont want to expand Medicaid to everyone who is slightly above the poverty line. Thirty-five percent support it.
CLOSED GOP PRIMARY
In 2012, Idaho required voters to declare as Republicans in order to choose the partys nominees. The poll found that change highly unpopular, with 68 percent disapproving. Among self-described Republicans, 53 percent said they disapproved and 45 percent approved.
But 63 percent of those polled said they plan to register GOP and vote in future elections.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics