Washington residents cite growing concern

PULLMAN — The current economic crisis is important to Washington state residents. A survey conducted by the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) at WSU shows that citizens increasingly see the economy as an important issue faced by the state, as well as economic development and jobs as the highest priority for tax dollars.

Asked which of several issues was the most important one facing the state, almost 50 percent of respondents said it is the economy, followed by health care and education (16 percent each), jobs and wages (11 percent), reducing taxes (5 percent), and the environment (4 percent).

Opinions and priorities on how to allocate tax money have also shifted during the last three months, the survey shows.

The most dramatic changes were in the importance that respondents attached to public education and economic issues. In September, 34 percent considered K-12 education the highest priority for tax money. That number slipped to 30 percent in October and remained at the same level in November. Over the same period, the percentage of people who consider economic development and jobs the highest priority increased from 19 percent in September to 28 percent in November.

While education still ranks highest, these trends suggest that concern over the economy and jobs is growing. One respondent said, “As serious as I think transportation and roads are in Washington, I think economy is the biggest problem over all. I hope it can be turned around. It’s affecting so many people in the country. It’s affected me, which I’d never expected.”

Identifying the most important use of tax dollars was difficult for many respondents. One participant said, “… it’s very hard to choose the top priority for taxes because they’re all very important. And choosing one makes it seem like they are not important, but they are.”

These trends may continue to change as the economic crisis continues. The survey data collected by SESRC provides a snapshot of the opinions held by Washington State residents. It is evident from these results that opinions about the best ways to spend tax money changes over time.

Despite the down turn in the economy, most of the respondents felt that their own economic situation would be either somewhat better (29 percent) or much better (16 percent) in the next five years. Only a few (19 percent) felt that their economic outlook would be worse than it is today, with residents under the age of 40 being more optimistic than older residents.

Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,354 Washington State residents between Sept. 8 and Nov. 19, 2008 with an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

SESRC, under the direction of John Tarnai, director, and Danna Moore, associate director, conducts monthly surveys to assess Washington residents’ opinions regarding social and economic issued.

More information about the surveys and SESRC can be obtained by visiting the WSU SESRC Web site at: www.sesrc.wsu.edu, or by contacting Marion Schultz at 509-335-8396

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