ATHENS, Ga. - Most Georgians would like to see more money spent to protect the environment, according to the new Peach State Poll.
And by a large margin, Georgians would also like to spend more on public education, according to the poll conducted by the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
Sixty percent of Georgians said "a lot" more should be spent on public education, and an additional 20 percent said the education budget should be increased "a little."
The Peach State poll will be conducted quarterly, survey director Rich Clark said.
The first poll explored Georgians' attitudes on a wide range of issues, and some of the answers were surprising, he said.
One surprise was that so many Georgians are willing to spend money on the environment - 71 percent said they would, Mr. Clark said.
A national poll conducted just a few months earlier found only 48 percent willing to spend more on the environment, Mr. Clark said.
By contrast, just 40 percent of Georgians surveyed in the Peach State poll said they wanted to increase spending on public health, compared with 71 percent in a national survey.
Another surprise was Georgia's confidence in the economy, considering the poll's timing, he said - between Sept. 15 and Sept. 25, just days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Workers conducted telephone interviews with 802 randomly selected adults around the state during the period. The margin of error in the survey is plus or minus 3.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. That means the poll results are an accurate measure of the entire state's opinions 95 percent of the time, within that plus or minus range.
Despite the dire economic news that was already coming out by Sept. 15, most Georgians polled (81 percent) believed they would be better off or about the same economically in a year's time, according to the poll.
One thing that was not a surprise was the answer to the question, "What is the most important problem facing the nation today?" Sixty percent said terrorism. Just 8 percent said the economy, but that was enough to make the economy No. 2 on the list.
The same question has been asked in Gallup Poll surveys dating back to the 1940s, and never before has a defense-related or national security issue been cited by such a large percentage of people surveyed, Mr. Clark said.
Pollsters also asked what the biggest problem facing Georgia (as distinct from the entire nation) is.
The top answers to that question were education (24 percent) and jobs, unemployment and the economy (24 percent).
The poll also found that Georgians have a lot of confidence in their police agencies - but not much in the state's court system.
Some questions will be repeated in each poll or every other poll so that researchers can see changes in attitudes and perceptions over time, Mr. Clark said.
Questions about confidence in the economy and about the worst problems confronting the nation and state will be repeated in each poll, for example.
But each poll will also focus on a unique issue or set of issues, he said.
September's polls asked Georgians about their attitudes toward the environment and water quality issues.
The second Peach State poll is now under way. In addition to the repeating questions, participants are being asked about tourism, travel, immigration and airline safety measures, Mr. Clark said.
Complete poll results are available at the Web site for the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government: www.cviog.uga.edu/organiza/ peach-state-poll/
The first quarterly poll by the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government showed Georgians believe education and the economy are the biggest problems facing the state right now.
Surveyors interviewed 802 people between Sept. 15 and Sept. 25.
(Percent who answered)
Terrorism and defense: 14
Dissatisfaction with government: 12
Energy prices/environ-ment/pollution: 3
Urban sprawl/unmanaged growth: 2
(Percent who said "increased")
Public schools: 80
Cleaning lakes and rivers: 78
Job training: 74
Higher education: 74
Protecting the environment: 72
Modernizing election/polling equipment: 69
Assisting low-income families: 64
Public health: 40
(Percent who said "quite a bit" or "a great deal")
Organized religion: 46
Adult education and technical training: 49
U.S. Supreme Court: 48
Public schools: 47
Big business: 38
News media: 37
Georgia state courts: 36
National health care system: 30
Organized labor: 24
Source: Carl Vinson Institute of Government