Even before the March 15 GOP neighborhood caucuses, Utah political experts were saying that the big push to get more registered Republicans to those delegate-electing meetings would mean the 2012 crop of delegates would be more moderate, less angry, than the 2010 gaggle that kicked U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett out of office in the state Republican Party Convention.
Now an in-depth poll by Dan Jones & Associates, sponsored by the non-partisan Utah Foundation and the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics, shows such is the case.
In short, says foundation president Steve Kroes, the 2012 batch of 4,000 state GOP delegates is more closely matched with the important political issues this year with GOP voters in general than the 2010 delegates were with the Republican base two years ago.
“There was a change in ideology this year in the surge of caucus” attendees, said Kroes.
In a major part, that was because the state Republican Party spent $300,000 in its unprecedented turn-out effort; leaders of the LDS Church encouraged members to go to their party caucuses (reading the message twice over the pulpit at Sunday services) and cancelled all local church meetings on the Tuesday night of the Democratic Party caucuses and the Thursday night of the GOP caucuses; and U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch’s campaign spent around $4 million in the nine months leading up to the March caucuses identifying Hatch supporters and turning them out to the GOP caucus meetings.
The result: Record turnout in both the Democratic and GOP caucuses, with the Republican meetings going from around 58,000 in 2010 to more than 125,000 March 15.
And these new, more moderate delegates – this is a relative term, says Kroes, for Utah Republicans are still more conservative than most GOP voters across the nation – will have ramifications across the political spectrum and in Republican races in Saturday’s state GOP convention.
To see the Republican and Democratic state delegates preferences on their party candidates, read a previous UtahPolicy story here.
In almost every Utah election cycle, especially on state issues, GOP rank-and-file say public education is one of their top five concerns, if not their top issue.
In 2010, however, the Tea-Party-like GOP delegates didn’t list education among their top 10 issues of the day.
This year, however, the GOP delegates say education is their No. 6 priority – still well below the general Republican base, who put it at No. 4, found Jones -- but a better match-up than two years ago.
This year, the top priority for GOP voters is creating a business friendly economy. That is second among Republican delegates, who put states’ rights first.
States’ rights – which has been a big issue in the GOP-dominated state Legislature the past several years – isn’t even in the top five among GOP voters.
But, says Kroes, that is not too surprising, as delegates are often more in tune with internal GOP politics than are Republican voters in general.
The new foundation study also finds that Utah Tea Partiers are on the way out within the Utah Republican Party.
Said Kroes: “Support for the Tea Party has dramatically fallen. It was at 46 percent among Republican voters in 2010, now it is just 27 percent.”
Among GOP delegates, the same is seen: The 2010 delegates identified with the Tea Party at 55 percent, the 2012 delegates only at 25 percent, the new study shows.
The foundation study is chock full of interesting information. You can read it here.
In general, said Kroes, Utah Democrats think very differently politically than do Utah Republicans. They are on opposite ends of the political scales on many issues.
Independents are often in the middle between the two distinct camps.
Republican delegates feel more strongly about the issues than do the GOP rank-and-file. Same with the Democrats.
Republican delegates in 2012 are still more conservative than their voting base; Democratic delegates are more liberal than their voting Democratic base.
A few of the study’s interesting findings:
-- The illegal immigration issue has dropped off the radar.
State House and Senate GOP leaders were smart, politically speaking, by ignoring several votes taken by the 2010 delegates in their 2011 county and state conventions demanding that lawmakers repeal HB116, the controversial guest worker program.
Bills that either did away with HB116 or would have drastically changed it were bottled up in the House Rules committee – never getting a hearing in the 2012 Legislature – or killed in a Senate standing committee.
None reached the floor of either body for a full vote.
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who signed HB116 in the spring of 2011, didn’t get any illegal immigration bill on his desk this year.
The new study finds that only 16 percent of the 2012 state GOP delegates disagree with the immigration reforms passed by the 2011 Legislature.
Fifty-one percent of GOP delegates are neutral on the immigration issue, while 28 percent agreeing with the Legislature’s actions.
Only 11 percent of GOP voters disagreed with the immigration reforms, 48 percent are neutral and 19 percent agree with them, the poll shows.
By refusing to act on immigration in the 2012 Legislature, GOP leaders anticipated the desires not only of their rank-and-file voters, but of the party delegates also.
-- Sixty-three percent of GOP delegates don’t believe global warming is caused by humans, while 77 percent of Democratic delegates believe it is caused by humans.
Forty-five percent of GOP voters don’t think global warming is human caused, while 71 percent of Democratic voters say it is.
-- One area where GOP delegates are more moderate than Republicans at-large concerns abortion. Nineteen percent of delegates say abortion of any kind should be outlawed. But 26 percent of GOP voters agree with that statement.
-- Herbert, a day after the GOP March caucus meetings, vetoed a sex education bill that would have required that abstinence-only classes be taught in public schools.
The timing of his veto was interesting, for he would have heard from various GOP sources about how more moderates had been elected state delegates this year.
In any case, Herbert can breathe easier on that veto: The survey finds that 52 percent of GOP delegates agree with that veto, only 13 percent disagree and 33 percent are neutral on the sex ed bill veto.
If Herbert is forced into a primary on Saturday, he shouldn’t worry about the veto among Republican voters, either.
Jones found that 54 percent of GOP voters agree with the veto, 32 percent don’t care one way or the other, only 8 percent of GOP voters disagree with his veto of the sex ed bill.