New poll says Alaskans support ‘large’ education funding increase, child care bill, federal trawling ban

A sign worn by a protestor at the Alaska State Capitol on Jan. 29, 2024 calls for an increase in education funding. (Eric Stone/Alaska Public Media)

A majority of Alaskans support a large increase to state education funding, according to a new poll from the progressive group Data for Progress.

In a sample of 1,120 Alaskans likely to vote this November, 52% said they favor a “large” increase to the base student allocation, the per-student funding that the state gives to school districts. Nearly 40% of respondents support little or no increase.

The poll drills deeper to look at how much of an increase Alaskans support. Half favor a per-student increase of $680 or more, the same amount the House and Senate passed in recent weeks with broad, bipartisan support.

“$680 is a popular amount, although many people wanted more,” said Jason Katz-Brown, a senior advisor with Data for Progress based in Anchorage who worked on the poll. “We see consistently in our results that in the Mat-Su is the only constituency that wants a smaller increase than that.” 

The group produced its poll results at a pivotal time. Gov. Mike Dunleavy is threatening to veto the education bill unless lawmakers pass additional legislation adding new retention bonuses for teachers and other priorities. He has until March 14 to sign or veto the bill.

Though Data for Progress often works with candidates or campaigns, Katz-Brown said this survey was not done on behalf of a client.

“Nobody paid us for this poll. I think we just wanted to have this data out there so that legislators and the governor and the administration can make a good decision,” he said.

The survey touched on other issues in front of the Alaska Legislature. Katz-Brown says two-thirds of respondents support a House-passed bill that would expand subsidies and offer new tax credits to support child care

“Overall, I really thought the Alaska Legislature’s bipartisan, like, consensus-building nature shone through in these results,” Katz-Brown said.

Another proposal that would mandate insurers to cover a full year of birth control with a single prescription, rather than a three-month supply, also has broad support among poll respondents: some 76% of those surveyed said they supported the proposal, including 69% of self-identified Republicans. A bill that would make that change, House Bill 17, is pending in the House Rules Committee but has yet to advance to the floor this session.

The survey also asked respondents about the 12 executive orders issued by Dunleavy at the beginning of the legislative session. Asked whether they thought the orders would “make decision-making better by making state government more efficient and effective,” or if they would “make decision-making worse by diminishing public input and community representation,” Alaskans opposed the orders by a nearly 40-point margin.

Katz-Brown said he tried to capture both sides’ framing of the issue in the question.

“I would have loved to include more convincing arguments from the governor and the administration, but they’ve pretty consistently stuck to the messaging that this will make state government more efficient and more effective,” he said. “I think this shows that they have a lot of work to do to convince Alaskans that this will make government better and make decision-making more effective.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a number of the orders on March 12.

The poll also asked about the 2024 presidential election. It shows Donald Trump is ahead by 12 points in the state. And about 60% of respondents disapprove of Joe Biden’s performance as president. 

By a roughly two-to-one margin, Alaskans told the pollster they don’t want to see grocery store giants Albertsons and Kroger merge. And, in a finding that Katz-Brown said was unexpected, about two thirds of respondents support a federal ban on trawl fishing off Alaska’s coast.

The poll was conducted in late February and early March and has a three-point margin of error. 

Eric Stone covers state government, tracking the Alaska Legislature, state policy and its impact on all Alaskans. Reach him at estone@alaskapublic.org.

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