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Top priorities
Indiana residents overwhelmingly cited jobs as the top priority for the General Assembly.
Jobs…83 percent
Improve schools…73 percent
Affordable health care…59 percent
Environment…44 percent
Illegal immigration…35 percent
Public transportation…21 percent
Source: 2013 Hoosier Survey, Ball State University/WISH-TV

Jobs are Job One, Hoosiers say


More school reform? A same-sex marriage resolution? Immigration reform?

How about putting Hoosiers to work as first priority for the Indiana General Assembly?

Once again, job creation scores the top spot in the Hoosier Survey, Ball State University/ WISH-TV’s well-respected opinion poll. Eighty-three percent of Hoosiers said employment should be the primary task when lawmakers return to Indianapolis in January. That’s about the same statistically as 81 percent in 2011.

Improving schools earned the second spot, at 73 percent. But other results suggest Hoosiers aren’t of one mind when it comes to the method of improving schools. Only about half are satisfied with the integrity of the state’s A-F school grading system in light of questions about manipulation of the formula by the former state school superintendent. Thirty-five percent want the state to find another way to evaluate schools.

Indiana public schools have been the target of so-called reform measures already enacted. But parents of students currently enrolled are overwhelmingly satisfied with their schools.

The controversial Common Core State Standards, under scrutiny by the General Assembly after they were unanimously approved by the State Board of Education in 2010, won mixed reviews. Almost a third of the Hoosiers surveyed believe they won’t make much difference in making Indiana students competitive in a global economy. Fifty-three percent believe they will.

While public opinion polls shouldn’t determine the direction of Indiana policy, they can offer insight into residents’ views. The Hoosier Survey, in particular, is valuable for its nonpartisan approach and attention to evolving positions on the issues most closely watched by lawmakers. Illegal immigration, for example, has seen a three-year decline as a major priority for Hoosiers.

Likewise, with a pending resolution to amend the state constitution by writing in a prohibition on same-sex marriage, Indiana residents are increasingly supportive of same-sex marriage. Fifty-eight percent oppose a ban on gay marriage – the state’s current law – up from 54 percent last year. “The whole trend is against (a ban),” said Ray Scheele, co-director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State, “and that’s been true over the last couple of years.”

If lawmakers are looking for an issue with strong consensus, however, it’s gun control.

The survey found 83 percent of respondents support background checks for sales at gun shows. That’s about the same as the national figure of 81 percent, from a Pew Research Center poll. Fifty-four percent of Hoosiers favor a ban on assault weapons and 65 percent support a federal weapons database.

With an election year on the horizon, legislators will be eager to weigh public opinion. The Hoosier Survey offers valuable guidance on where they should devote their energies, as well as where they shouldn’t.