Idaho Politicians Survey Analysis

Respondents are not happy with our Legislature. They want to help new leaders get elected.

Cameron Crow
Nov 16, 2019 · 8 min read

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Cam’s Main Takeaways

  1. Most respondents are disapproving of the Idaho Legislature, including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
  2. Our 2-party system is deeply unpopular with our Democrat and Independent respondents, but our Republicans mildly approve of it.
  3. Interest in political activism was very high. They want to help a great local candidate get elected.

Table of Contents

  • Idaho Politicians Survey
  • Sample Demographics
  • Feelings about the word “politician"
  • Approve of your elected representatives?
  • Legislature look like your community?
  • 2-party system work well?
  • Would you help a great local candidate?
  • When would you vote Independent?
  • What makes a good elected representative?
  • Who should run?
  • Don’t buy it? Make it better.

Idaho Politicians Survey

We’re fortunate to live in a democracy, where we can choose our leaders during elections. But, that doesn’t guarantee that we always have great representatives. We wanted to know what people think about their elected leaders.

Here are our survey questions and results, and below’s what I found most interesting.

Sample demographics

Whenever you look at survey results or findings, it’s a good idea to check the demographics of the respondents — that can have a lot to do with whether the results are likely to reflect a broad population, or just a niche group. This survey was distributed via email, Facebook, and subscriber shares.

Our 554 responses were spread across the board, but we had more participation from women, Democrats, middle-aged folks, and Southwestern Idahoans.

(One other thing to keep in mind — this is an opt-in survey, which means respondents decided whether or not they wanted to participate. I expect participants are more interested in this topic than others, so our results may not represent the views of an “average” Idahoan.)

Feelings about the word “politician”

A good place to start is with some high-level context. For that, I wanted to know what connotations people have with the word “politician” before we ask about any specifics.

Overall, there’s a clearly negative feeling about the word — 65% feel disappointment or disgust and only 8% feel pride or respect. That sets the stage pretty well! We’re not very happy about this vocation, generally.

But let’s slice that by political party and see if Republicans and Democrats feel similarly or not. You’d think Republicans might be happier in the current political atmosphere in Idaho and DC.

Nope! Feelings are mutual. We’re looking at very similar negativity across all political affiliations — 60% for Democrats, 70% for Independents, and 65% for Republicans.

It’s nice to see people agree on something! 😛

Approve of your elected representatives?

Now, let’s get specific. We asked whether they approve of their city, county, state, and congressional representatives.

Overall, the bigger the constituency, the less approving our respondents were. 16% of respondents disapproved of their city government, 30% for their county, 65% for the Idaho Legislature, and 80% for Idaho’s congressional delegation.

That’s definitely interesting, and intuitive, but let’s remember that we did hear from a lot more Democrats than Republicans. We’d expect them to be less approving of a state that’s politically dominated by Republicans. Let’s segment by political party again and see what that shows us.

Looking specifically at approval of the Legislature, we see that Republicans are a lot less disapproving — that makes sense. Disapproval rates were 35% for Republicans, 65% for Independents, and 72% for Democrats.

I find it interesting that Independents and Democrats look so similar on this. Though, there is a small minority of Democrats elected to the legislature, and perhaps Democrat respondents are expressing approval for them (10% approving). Whereas, there are very few Independents in the Legislature, and <5% of Independents are approving.

Legislature look like your community?

Ok, there weren’t very many big fans of the Legislature, that’s obvious. One hypothesis I have is that there’s a feeling that it’s not “representative” of what peoples’ communities look like. For example, our legislature is primarily old, white, financially secure men. That’s not what most of our state looks like. Let’s see what people had to say about this.

Overall, our respondents felt that the Legislature isn’t representative of their communities, considering different demographics. The least-representative category was gender (10% said Yes, 65% said No), and the most-representative category was Race (35% said Yes, 35% said No).

That’s pretty striking to me. I think most of our respondents are right — our legislature doesn’t look remotely like the people of our state. But I wasn’t expecting so many respondents to identify that.

2-party system work well?

Now, let’s transition to feelings about partisanship. More specifically, what people think about only having two choices of candidates most of the time — Republicans and Democrats.

Overall, people were very disapproving of the 2-party system we have today. Over 70% said that it does not serve Idaho voters well, compared to 10% that said it does.

We need to check this by party. After all, the Republican Party is definitely benefitting more from this system today.

Wow. Good thing we checked this. The 2-party system was actually popular with Republicans! 45% said it serves Idahoan’s well compared to 32% saying it doesn’t.

On the other hand, the losing parties (Democrats and Independents) equally disapproved of the 2-party system — 78% said it doesn’t serve Idaho well.

When would you vote Independent?

While we’re on the topic of parties and our current system, I wanted to know how people think about voting for Independents.

Overall, people were very noncommittal about voting for them. 75% said they’d vote for Independents if they liked their policies the best.

That makes sense, particularly from people that normally vote D or R, but I’m curious how the proportion on this answer broke down for people that actually identify as Independents.

Though they chose “Every chance I get” and “Most of the time” more, there weren’t very many of them still. Most Independents responded like the partisans. I guess that makes sense, by definition — they’re non-partisan, event towards non-partisans.

Would you help a great local candidate?

Next, I wanted to get a read on activism. If there was a great local candidate running, I wanted to know how many of the respondents would help their campaign.

Overall, 70% said they’re likely to help this theoretical campaign. Now, I’m definitely taking this with a big grain of salt.

People are generally more likely to say they would do something than to follow-through. Also, I think we’re probably hearing from a subset of more activism-inclined Idahoans in this survey. Most people didn’t have enough interest in this topic to take the survey in the first place, and I’m assuming the vast majority of the non-respondents aren’t into joining a campaign.

Ok, now that we’ve covered all these caveats, let’s see what this looks like broken down by party. My assumption is that Democrats will be more into this, since grassroots involvement is something that’s typically more associated with Democratic campaigns.

Actually, while, Democrats identified as more likely to help a candidate (75%), Independents and Republicans were pretty similar (60% and 63%, respectively).

That’s great to see! I think most people would agree that a stronger democracy means more involvement from citizens, and our respondents are wanting to get involved, regardless of party.🤘

What makes a good elected representative?

But, we should clarify here. People said they’re likely to help a great local candidate, but that could mean different things to different people. We should probably see what our respondents consider the most important qualities of a good representative.

Overall, the top two qualities were clear — “They work with different people to get things done” and “They’re closely connected to their constituents.” And the characteristic people thought was least important was “They look like the community they represent.”

But we know this view is heavily weighted to the priorities of Democrats. Let’s break it down by party and see if there are any interesting differences.

Actually, yes. There are some noteworthy differences here. Though the ranking of qualities is mostly the same for Democrats and Independents, the order for Republicans was different.

For Ds and Is — 1) working with different people, 2) connected to constituents, 3) vote how their constituents want.

For Rs — 1) connected to constituents, 2) vote how their constituents want, 3) working with different people.

If there’s a theme to read into these results, I think it’s that our Republican respondents want their representatives to have less individuality in their positions. They might want them to vote their way, not on their own principle. I think the fact that Rs prioritized “They’re an independent thinker” and “They’re brave and take a stand” lower might corroborate this theory.

Who should run?

Lastly, I asked people who some great local leaders are in their communities that should run for office. If people aren’t happy with their current representatives, then they should vote them out and replace them with new great leaders!

You can read all the named “nominees” in the overall results, but I made this simple word cloud to show which names were mentioned the most.

Feel free to contact these people and tell them to run in 2020!

That’s all folks! If you want more analysis goodness, check out our other posts here.

Don’t buy it? Make it better.

Make Idaho Better is working to figure out what people really think. If you ever read our stuff and don’t believe the results, you could be right — maybe we aren’t hearing from enough people with different views.

If that’s what you think, help us get closer by joining and weighing in yourself, and ask your friends and family to do it too. The more people participate, the better the results will be. #DoYourPart

Make Idaho Better

Using surveys, public results and analysis, and stories to make Idaho voices heard and make a difference. Helping leaders find better solutions with innovative and affordable community engagement and market research.

Cameron Crow

Written by

Make Idaho Better

Using surveys, public results and analysis, and stories to make Idaho voices heard and make a difference. Helping leaders find better solutions with innovative and affordable community engagement and market research.

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