Support for proposed tax hike to fund public education inches up

Support for the Our Schools Now sales and personal income tax hikes for public schools has risen slightly, retaining its majority opinion, a new survey shows.

The Dan Jones & Associates poll finds that 50 percent of Utahns “strongly” or “somewhat” support the OSN citizen initiative petition, which if adopted in November 2018 by voters would raise the state sales tax by 0.45 percentage points and raise the state personal income tax by 0.45 percentage points to bring in $700 million more annually to Utah K-12 schools.

Forty-eight percent oppose the tax increases.

And 2 percent didn’t have an opinion.

Several months ago a similar UtahPolicy poll found that only 48 percent supported the tax increases, while 49 percent opposed them.

Public opinion polls in recent months indicate that the measure should be a close vote next year.


Backers of OSN told The Salt Lake Tribune two months ago that they are well on their way to collecting by year’s end the 113,000 voter signatures they need – ensuring that the measure makes the 2018 general election ballot.

The new survey by Jones has some interesting demographic breakouts:

Women – who traditionally are more involved in their children and grandchildren’s education – support the tax hike more than do men.

  • Women support the tax increases, 56-40 percent.
  • While men actually oppose the tax increases for public schools, 55-43 percent.
  • Younger Utahns really support the increases. Those 18-24 support the public school funding measures, 56-34 percent.
  • While those 25-34 support them, 60-35 percent.

But a key group opposes the tax increases – Republicans.

Most Republicans in the Utah Legislature and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert oppose the OSN initiative, saying they worry increasing taxes would stall or harm Utah’s growing economy.

Jones finds 56 percent of self-identified Republicans in the new poll oppose the tax hike for schools; while only 41 percent support them.

Democrats, however, love the idea of more money for schools, 72-27 percent.

Political independents, who don’t belong to any political party, also support the OSN initiative, 55-44 percent.

As might be expected, those who told Jones they are “very” or “somewhat” conservative oppose the tax increases.

While political “moderates” and “liberals” support the tax initiative.

Finally, Utah Mormon usually have more children than other religious groups, and so have more children using the often overcrowded public schools.

But Jones finds that “very active” Mormons actually oppose the OSN initiative, 50-47 percent.

Other religious groups and those who said they have no religion support the initiative, although in some cases by bare majorities.

Utah has ranked last in the nation for years in per-pupil spending.

And while high school graduation rates are up, comparative test scores show Utah school children are falling behind in several critical areas.

Jones polled 600 adults from Nov. 16-21. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.