POLL: 1/3 of Boiseans Think They’ll Leave


The following findings were produced as part of Embold Research’s Omnibusthe only vehicle for hyper-affordable, bite-sized opinion research in Boise.  


POLL: Despite high quality of life, belonging,
a third of Boiseans say they might leave

Friday, May 14, 2021

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Alex Chen, Embold Research

To inquire about purchasing the full results of this poll, including demographic breakdowns, contact nicole@changeresearch.com

After recently topping charts of best places to live and fastest-growing areas in the nation, Boise is at a crossroads, according to a new survey of adults in the area. While quality of life ratings are high and residents express a strong sense of belonging and of place, housing affordability and growth are top of mind and residents put low trust in public agencies to tackle these problems.

The survey shows that most Boiseans are satisfied with their quality of life and offer positive ratings of Boise as a place to live. 81% of Boiseans say they love or like the area where they live, when just just 69% of adults nationally said so in March. Likewise, 37% of residents say they are very satisfied with their life these days (8–10 on a scale from 0, very dissatisfied, to 10, very satisfied), a similar number to the 34% of adults nationally.

Yet these high ratings do not necessarily translate into higher likelihood of residents recommending Boise to others or putting down roots. While just under half say they recommend that friends and family move to their area, 23% of residents say they discourage friends or family from doing so—more than the 16% of adults nationally who say so. 34% of Boise residents think they will likely move to another city, region, or state in the next few years, comparable to the national average of 31% who say they will likely move. 

With housing costs having risen rapidly in the area—the median list price in the county hitting a recent peak of 556k and Boise rents jumping an estimated 23% in the last year—housing and growth continue to be top of mind concerns for Boiseans. 61% of respondents count housing affordability among their top three most important local issues, 40% include managing growth, and 36% include jobs and wages. Housing affordability is even more of a concern for long-time residents than it is for newcomers—63% of residents who have lived in Boise for ten years or longer say affordability is a top issue and 55% of those who have lived in Boise for less than five years say so. 

Boise renters are significantly more concerned about affordability than homeowners are: a remarkable 84% of renters put housing affordability in their top three issues, while just 45% of homeowners do so. Housing costs compound with other issues for renters—their second top local issue is jobs and wages, and they already express significantly lower quality of life ratings (5.4 average on 0–10 scale, 22% very satisfied) compared to homeowners (6.7 average, 48% very satisfied). 

 Rapidly rising housing costs are thus most likely to impact a significantly younger and somewhat more racially diverse minority of Boiseans. Boiseans who rent rather than own still offer overwhelmingly positive ratings of the areas they live (76% love or like the area where they live) and 77%, the vast majority, say they’ve lived in Boise for 5 years or longer. However, they are much more likely to think they will move somewhere else in the next few years (49% likely to move among renters, 23% among homeowners).


As the region navigates growth and housing affordability, Boiseans express low levels of trust in local government to handle these issues. When asked how often they trust local government in their area on planning and development, Boise residents express somewhat lower trust than adults nationally (3.4 average on a scale from 0, never, to 10, always, compared to national average of 3.8). Trust in local government to handle planning and development is even lower among residents who have lived in Boise for ten years or longer, compared to those who have lived in Boise for less time. Overall, residents also offer an average job rating for local government of 3.6 on a 0–10 scale from poor to excellent, trailing the national average of 4.2. 


While affordable housing and smart growth represent thorny challenges for regions all over the country, Boise’s recent boom puts it among the vanguard, and some parts of the way forward are clearer than others: 72% of respondents are in support of “allowing homeowners to construct small, detached backyard housing units,” on the heels of the Boise City Council loosening restrictions on ADUs in 2019, and 86% are in support of “allowing smaller, more affordable housing units such as townhouses,” indicating some general support for denser new development. But low trust in public institutions to solve the problems at hand could make it even more difficult for those tackling these issues, and decreasing housing affordability may significantly impact the social fabric of the area.

This is Part 1 of a three-part series on public opinion and trust in Boise. Subsequent releases will examine growth, social and institutional trust, and COVID recovery. 

Embold Research surveyed 924 adults online in Boise and Garden City between May 7–12, 2021. The modeled margin of error is 3.4%. Respondents were recruited to an online survey instrument via Dynamic Online Sampling, and post-stratification was done on age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, geography according to ACS 2015–19 five-year estimates of demographics of Boise and Garden City. Comparisons are to a national survey of 941 adults across the United States between March 18–30, 2021. 

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