So, What’s Next?–Setting the Stage for Governing Minnesota for the Next 150 Years
A new survey shows that Minnesotans agree on the critical issues facing the state, but there is little consensus around solutions. The findings come as policy makers begin setting an agenda for a legislative session that will convene in January and as the nonpartisan Citizens League stakes out a new policy direction for the state in time for Minnesota’s sesquicentennial in May 2008.
The Citizens League conducted the survey as part of its ambitious Minnesota Anniversary Project, or MAP 150, a project aimed at creating a state better equipped to solve its problems as it prepares for the next 150 years of statehood.
Survey findings include:
—Minnesotans largely agree on the top issues facing the state: controlling taxes (26 percent), access to affordable health care (24 percent), improving quality of education (17 percent), and creating a healthy economy (12 percent).
—Minnesotans are cautiously optimistic about the future, especially where their individual prospects are concerned. Seventy-six percent said Minnesota still is the land of opportunity for everyone.
—Two issues, immigration and the role of government in moral issues, have formed deep fault lines among voters. Minnesotans are split nearly 50/50 on these topics.
—Many citizens have lost confidence in the ability of traditional systems and institutions to solve problems. For example, 47 percent of Minnesotans think the state is on the wrong track, while 50 percent say it is headed in the right direction.
—Minnesotans are willing to invest in key areas but want more transparency in funding their public systems. Eighty-one percent said they would feel better about paying taxes if it were clearer to them how the money is spent.
—Minnesotans are concerned about public education. Fully two-thirds believe the quality of education in Minnesota is a problem and only a tiny minority–two to 10 percent–believes the K-12 education system has shown improvement in key areas like preparation for future success, quality of teaching, discipline in schools, and funding basic skills instruction.
–The survey also identified the emergence of eight distinct ideological blocs that may better explain Minnesotans’ positions on key issues than the political parties. These groups cleave along new economic, religious, and issue-oriented lines.
—Minnesotans think citizens have a role in solving problems, but surprisingly, the conventional views about why individuals don’t get involved (e.g., too little time, complicated issues, apathy) did not prove true for most respondents. The most important barrier to civic activity cited was too much talk and too little action (46 percent).
The survey is part of comprehensive research conducted by the Citizens League over the last year. The Citizens League has used the research findings to identify the following priorities for Minnesota in preparation for its 150th anniversary:
1. How can politics become more useful in solving citizens’ shared problems?
2. What can students teach us about how school needs to change so that we see dramatic improvements in student achievement?
3. How can we make our health care system more affordable and secure, regardless of a person’s work situation?
4. How can we remove the mystery from how our taxes are used?
Prior to the state’s sesquicentennial in May 2008, the Citizens League will work with Minnesotans across the state to develop both short-term solutions and long-term strategies that find common ground on each priority. The Citizens League will act as a nonpartisan, trusted, and credible convener, bringing together all of the diverse stakeholders necessary to find and implement civic policy solutions.