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Nebraskans prioritize health care, education funding in annual public opinion survey
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Nebraskans prioritize health care, education funding in annual public opinion survey

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Nebraskans prioritized access to affordable health care, investments in K-12 and higher education, and property tax cuts in a public opinion poll conducted by the Holland Children's Institute.

Seven in 10 respondents to the survey ranked affordable and accessible health care as a top priority for state policymakers to pursue, according to the phone survey.

The delay until October 2020 to implement voter-approved Medicaid expansion, as well as potential restrictions on who would qualify for coverage, concerned 56% of the respondents, the results show.

At the same time, 64% of respondents said property tax relief should continue to be a priority for state leaders, while 61% said fully funding K-12 education was a top policy goal.

Hadley Richters, CEO of the Holland Children's Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit that conducts research and public education about policy issues that impact children and working families, said the results of the survey show Nebraskans link the two issues.

Instead of overspending by local school districts, which 35% of respondents said was a problem, the results show 59% blame high property taxes on a lack of state investment, Richters said.

"A majority of Nebraska voters favor fully funding public education (51%), over tax cuts for businesses and property owners (45%)," she said in a news release.

The Holland Children's Institute poll was conducted by TargetSmart, which surveyed 600 randomly selected registered voters in the state by phone — including 47% on cellphones — in late July.

A total of 54% of respondents identified themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning, while 38% described themselves as Democrats or Democrat-leaning. Just 8% were self-described "pure independents."

While the split between college-educated (52%) and noncollege-educated (48%) respondents was within the 4% margin of error, two-thirds of those surveyed said the state was not doing enough to keep college tuition in the state affordable.

In a later question, 62% of Nebraskans said the state should focus more on higher education and career, technical and vocational training than giving tax breaks and incentives to private companies.

Fewer than half (45%) of respondents said the state was making investments into early childhood care and education. Marginally more respondents (50%) said Nebraska supports working people with policies such as paid child, family or sick leave.

The survey also gauged who Nebraskans felt were best served by economic policies considered by lawmakers.

A majority of respondents said the Legislature's economic policies benefited large corporations (65%) and wealthy Nebraskans (61%) a lot or a fair amount.

Forty-four percent said policies benefited children by the same amount, while just 35% said the policies were benefiting Nebraska's middle class.

The Holland Children's Institute said the Nebraska Voters' Outlook shows Nebraskans agree on policy priorities but do not feel state government is doing enough to address those issues in ways beneficial to them or their families.

But overall, those surveyed approved of the job their leaders are doing.

A total of 52% said they approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing, while 42% said they disapprove.

Overall job approval ratings for Gov. Pete Ricketts reached 59%, while 34% disapproved, and 58% of Nebraskans said they approved of the Legislature's job performance to 31% disapproval.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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