New Utah GOP leadership surveying members, but the questions are loaded ones

The Utah Republican Party, now under new leadership, has sent out email/web-based survey to 80,000 of registered Republicans in the state.

No doubt this is, overall, a good thing.

Newly-elected GOP Chairman Rob Anderson and his executive committee want to know what rank-and-file Republicans believe.

However, from over 40 years of writing Dan Jones & Associates poll stories, first for the Deseret News (25 years as political editor) and now for, I can tell loaded questions when I see them.

And there are several on this survey (which I took over the weekend because I am a registered Republican):

First, one would think the most important question Anderson et al. would want to be answered is: Do you favor or oppose the Utah Republican Party’s continued lawsuit against SB54 – the dual-route to the primary law passed by the Legislature?

He doesn’t even ask that question at all.

In a UtahPolicy interview, Anderson candidly admitted that he basically knows where most GOP voters are on this one: They want the lawsuit ended and the party to stop spending money on it.

In an interesting aside, Anderson said if the party wins “any part” of its appeal now before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, “then it will be remanded back” to the Utah federal court for further hearings and the party will see at least two more years of legal fees.

“We can’t afford it,” said Anderson, who was frustrated in September when some shenanigans in the State Central Committee meeting stopped a vote to end the lawsuit.

So if the GOP wins, there must be even tougher conversations with the State Central Committee over what to do now.

He does, however, ask in the survey: Do you think a person should advance via signatures, the convention, or both.

This is basically SB54, but without context as to what the question is about.

Anderson explained – in advocating for the end of the lawsuit – that if Count My Vote gets on the 2018 ballot (which would only allow for signature-gathering to make a party primary), he hopes that folks could vote it down and let SB54 – with its allowable caucus/delegate/convention route – remain Utah law.

In short, the state GOP should advocate in 2018 for the very law it has spent two years and $300,000 fighting against – for at least SB54 allows for the caucus/delegate/convention to stay alive in some manner.

He also asks about the five currently-pursued citizen initiatives aimed at the 2018 November general election ballot.

That’s fine.

Except that the survey completely misunderstood the financing for the Our Schools Now petition.

In several different places, the survey says it is a proposed property tax increase for schools.

It is not at all a property tax.

“We know that,” said Anderson. It’s too late, basically, to try to change the survey. It is what it is and will be taken into account when all the answers are compiled.

Actually, Our Schools Now is a 0.45 percentage point increase in the state sales tax, and a 0.45 percentage point increase in the state personal income tax.

As anyone dealing with governments/public opinion knows, the property tax is the most hated tax.

On all of the various surveys, I’ve worked with Jones on over 40 years, increasing the property tax is the least favored tax hike – by far.

I realize Anderson can’t afford a professional pollster to help him phrase his questions in a way to get the best, most reflective, answers.

However, clearly, the SB54/redistricting commission questions were phrased to get negative responses – against the redistricting commission and against the signature-only petition to be run by Count My Vote folks.

And as stated above – the Our Schools Now tax hikes for public schools GOP questionnaire question is just plain wrong, besides being a bit biased.

Statistically, accurate polling is great.

I love it, not only for its news value but also for following what the citizenry believes and wishes to happen.

Anderson said this was not an attempt at statistical polling. Rather, leaders wanted to use the web to contact rank-and-file Republicans, see if they might be interested in getting more involved in GOP politics and fundraising and overall what concerns them.

Anderson said if the party gets a 3 percent or 4 percent “open” rate – that is, the recipient opens the email, much less answers the survey – that is a good response.

So maybe GOP leaders will get 3,000 or so responses to the survey.

And those folks will certainly get further surveys, as GOP leaders see the need. One of the goals is to “educate” rank-and-file GOP voters on the anticipated citizen initiatives on next year’s ballot.

Ultimately, said Anderson, the newly-led GOP wants to I.D. more of the 716,000 registered Republicans in Utah, start some kind of dialogue with them, and get them more interested in party politics, in volunteering and fundraising, and electing even more Republicans in an already very red state.