Two public opinion surveys have been released over the last several weeks, both showing substantial support for the Count My Vote citizen initiative, which would end candidates being vetted by their own political party delegates and move Utah to a direct primary system.
One poll was paid for by CMV.
The other by the Olene Walker school of political science at Weber State University.
Both were conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, Utah’s longest running private polling firm.
I wrote about the CMV poll in a story last Monday.
Let me take this column space to consider some of the results of the new Walker survey.
(Olene Walker was Utah’s first female governor, who came into office in 2003 when former Gov. Mike Leavitt resigned. Walker lost her seat when she finished fifth in the 2004 state GOP convention.)
I’m going to throw a lot of numbers at you fairly quickly.
Sorry for that. But I’ll try to analyze what they mean further down.
The poll was conducted a week ago of 627 registered voters through home and cell telephone numbers of those questioned. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.
Some of the results concerning CMV:
Asked if they preferred to keep the current caucus/convention system or eliminate the C/C and move to a direct primary for all candidates, Jones found:
— 58 percent said eliminate the C/C and move to a direct primary. (That is what the CMV initiative would do, should it be approved by voters on the November ballot.)
— 27 percent said keep the caucus/convention system. Only 3 percent didn’t know.
Jones then compared how Republicans, Democrats and independents felt about the same question – keep C/C or move to a direct primary.
— 51 percent of Republicans said move to a direct primary.
— 33 percent of Republicans said keep the C/C.
— 75 percent of Democrats said move to a direct primary.
— 8 percent said keep the current caucus/convention system.
— 65 percent of independents said move to a direct primary; 23 percent said keep the caucus/convention candidate nomination system.
The poll clearly tells Democratic officeholders (and there aren’t many of them in Utah) that they should get on board with Count My Vote. Three out of four Democrats support the petition.
But while Utah rank-and-file Republicans also clearly want CMV (51-33 percent), the majority party in the Utah Legislature has a much more difficult call to make.
That’s because this year all 61 House Republicans will face their district delegates in either county or state conventions.
Several GOP senators up for re-election this year also will face delegates.
It would be pretty tough to look your GOP delegates in the eye and say you don’t want them voting on you; rather you want a direct primary system where you bypass the delegates and face rank-and-file GOP voters.
On the other hand, it’s very likely that the rank-and-file GOP voters in your district WANT you to support Count My Vote, as the poll shows.
What do you do?
Well, if you’ve got a brain in your head you support the current caucus/convention system – otherwise if you are challenged by another Republican in your re-election, he or she will almost certainly support the C/C, and you very likely would find yourself eliminated in your convention.
You wouldn’t make it to a GOP primary where support of CMV may be an asset.
Jones also asked whether moving to a direct primary system would make it more likely that you would vote in a multi-candidate party primary.
— He found that 54 percent of Utahns said a direct primary would make them MORE likely to vote in the June primary.
— 22 percent the change wouldn’t affect their voting patterns, while 4 percent said a direct primary would make them LESS likely to vote.
— Among Republicans, 49 percent said a direct primary would make them more likely to vote; 27 percent said it wouldn’t matter; while 6 percent said ending the C/C and going to a direct primary would make them less likely to vote in a primary.
Both Democrats and independents said a direct primary would make them more likely to vote in June.
— 72 percent of Democrats said they would be more likely to vote; 6 percent were neutral and 1 percent said it would make them less likely to vote in a primary.
— 59 percent of independents said they would be more likely to vote in a primary; 16 percent said it would make no difference and 1 percent said they would be less likely to vote in a primary if the C/C were dumped in favor of a direct primary system.
Jones also asked if switching from a caucus/convention to a direct primary system would increase or decrease your voting for your favorite candidate.
Again, the numbers are with the direct primary switch.
— 61 percent of registered voters said they would be more likely to support/vote for their desired candidate under a direct primary system; 21 percent said it would make no difference and 3 percent said they would be less likely to vote for their desired candidate.
— 55 percent of Republicans said they would be more likely to support the candidate they liked; 26 percent said it would make no difference and 4 percent said they would be less likely to support their favored candidate.
— 79 percent of Democrats said the switch to direct primary would make it more likely they would support the candidate they liked and 66 percent of independents said the same.
With such strong support for CMV across the partisan board, one may well ask if there is any group of Utahns out there that don’t want to switch to a direct primary, but favor keeping the current caucus/convention system.
The answer is yes – although it is, by comparison, a rather narrow slice of the Utah populace.
Jones found that by a 46-41 percent, those who described themselves as “very conservative” politically favor keeping the C/C compared to switching to a direct primary.
That’s 160 of the 627 poll respondents identified themselves as “very conservative,” or about 25 percent of the total sample.
This is consistent with the ideological breakdown in various other Jones polls in recent years.
Surveys of GOP state delegates, compared with the same questions put to rank-and-file registered GOP voters done in recent years, shows that Republican delegates are more conservative than regular party members.
This was especially so in 2010, when one such survey showed that public education wasn’t even one of the top five issues for state delegates that year – while it was a top issue (along with the economy) for Utah Republicans in general.
If delegates are picking GOP lawmakers, then it follows that the Legislature is more conservative than Utah Republicans at large.
In fact the moderate GOP caucus in the Utah House has basically disappeared today compared to the early- to mid-2000s.
While the results of the new Walker poll, conducted as part of the Zions Bank/Exoro pre-legislative conference that was held Wednesday, may be interesting, look for GOP lawmakers to make moves aimed at strengthening the caucus/convention system during the next 45 days of the general session.
Even though Utahns, even most Republican Utahns, favor a switch to a direct primary, those won’t be the constituents GOP legislators will be looking at.
Taking care of their Republican delegates – the “very conservatives” among them — will be the focus of any anti-CMV legislation coming down the pike.
(Editor’s note: UtahPolicy publisher LaVarr Webb, who is also a principle in Exoro, sits on the CMV board. Bob Bernick’s views, as expressed in this column, however are his own.)