Topic: College of Sciences and Humanities

January 5, 2009

For its 2009 session, a new poll reveals that Indiana's residents want state lawmakers to pay closer attention to boosting economic development and making government more efficient says a public opinion survey conducted Ball State University.

Providing more affordable health care and improving local schools are also high on the list of Hoosiers' concerns.

The first Hoosier Poll produced by Ball State's Bowen Center for Public Affairs found Indiana residents uneasy about the nation's economy as the current recession deepens, says Ray Scheele, center co-director and a Ball State political science professor.

The study found that 83 percent of Indiana residents want to see more attention paid to bringing jobs to the state while 67 percent want public officials to make government run more efficiently.

"Economic development and creating jobs are always high priorities for Hoosiers," Scheele said. "The current recession makes these priorities even more important."

The Hoosier Poll asked a random sample of Indiana residents to rank the policy priorities they believe lawmakers should address in the upcoming legislative session. The telephone survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Bowen Center on Nov. 12-16, just after the national elections. Six hundred voting-age adults were interviewed, yielding a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.  

Many Hoosiers also are willing to pay more to fund some of their priorities. Seventy-one percent said they were very or somewhat likely to support increased taxes to make health care available to more people. Meanwhile, 69 percent would pay more to improve Indiana's public schools and 68 percent would support increased taxes to make higher education more affordable.
"There is very high support for making health care more available to all Hoosiers," Scheele said. "Improving public schools and making college more affordable are also clear priorities."
He emphasized that Gov. Mitch Daniels' proposal for free tuition at Ivy Tech Community College received favorable responses as did support for tax increases to enhance environmental protection.
Property tax dilemma
On the other hand, respondents were almost evenly divided over last year's property tax legislation with just 51 percent expressing satisfaction and 44 percent saying they were dissatisfied with the reforms.
Indiana residents also are almost evenly divided over how well local governments are coping with the impact of property tax reform. Fifty four percent said local governments are responding very well or somewhat well, while 37 percent said local governments are not responsive.
Although most Hoosiers appear reluctant to give local officials greater taxing authority to solve community problems, the survey's respondents were more receptive to allowing state officials to raise revenue that would allow them to tackle pressing issues. By margins ranging from 61 to 71 percent, the survey found support for higher state taxes to address a range of educational, health care and environmental issues. In contrast, 53 percent oppose increased local taxes to correct pressing problems in their local communities. 
"Clearly in the areas of taxing and spending, there is more confidence in state leaders than local officials," Scheele said. "Citizens are highly skeptical about how local government leaders handle the revenues given them.
"Our poll supports this issue because we found that Indiana residents have a surprisingly high regard for the legislature with 59 percent approving the job the body has done in recent years," he said. "This contrasts with national results showing a very low approval rating for Congress, according to a recent Gallup Poll."