SALT LAKE CITY — Getting children to read by third grade should be the top priority for the 2014 Legislature, according to a new poll for Weber State University and the Exoro Group released Wednesday.
The poll of 627 registered voters around the state was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates for the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service at WSU and the political consulting company.
The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent, found 55 percent of Utahns put focusing on reading skills at the top of the list, followed by investing in public education and spending money to improve air quality.
Respondents, who were questioned between Jan. 2-13, were split on which income tax exemptions they'd be most willing to give up in order to make more funds available to schools.
Twenty-eight percent said the exemptions for themselves and their children; 27 percent said the exemption for their home mortgages; and 23 percent the exemption for their charitable contributions.
Asked what they would be willing to do to improve air quality, 50 percent said they would be very willing to walk whenever possible, while 38 percent were also very willing to back an alternative fuel tax break and use less electricity in their homes.
Sixty-four percent of the respondents ranked education as very important, followed by both job development and air quality at 45 percent, and health care reform at 38 percent.
And nearly two-thirds of Utahns, 63 percent, said things in the state are generally headed in the right direction while 33 percent said they've "gotten off on the wrong track."
The poll also asked about the impact of the Count My Vote initiative petition drive currently underway to change the state's unique system for selecting political party nominees to a direct primary.
Seventy percent said the change, which still needs to qualify for the November ballot, would increase their participation in primary election, 22 percent said the impact would be neutral and 7 percent said their participation would decrease.
Count My Vote's backers include Exoro co-founder LaVarr Webb, who writes a column for the Deseret News.