Salt Lake City: An island of liberal blue in a sea of conservative red

It is a tale of two worlds.

The people of Salt Lake City compared to Utahns as a whole.

Religious affiliation, partisan politics, education levels – all are much different statewide than they are in Utah’s capitol city.

A comparison between the demographics found in a recent poll of all the state by Dan Jones & Associates, and a survey of Salt Lake City residents, find significant differences.

The city really is a different world than most of the rest of the state – although there are liberal enclaves in Park City, Moab, Torrey, and Springdale, among other areas.

Active Mormons reign throughout Utah, both socially and politically.

But not in Salt Lake City, where active members of the LDS Church are a significant minority.

Utah is a red state – Republicans hold all the major statewide offices and all of our D.C. delegation. The state Legislature is more than two-thirds Republican.

But the city is definitely blue – Democratic.

And the city is more hip – more bars, more shows, more restaurants, more nightlife, more singles, more young people.

Much of this we already know by the feel and look of city residents compared to other places, like Provo.

But Jones’ numbers are still illustrative, if not astounding:

  • Across the state, those ages 25-34 make up 16 percent of the population; in the city, it’s 20 percent.
  • Republicans make up 48 percent of all Utahns, Democrats just 19 percent.
  • But in Salt Lake City, Democrats make up 39 percent of the population, Republicans only 19 percent, one in five.
  • Political independents – who don’t belong to any political party — make up 26 percent statewide, but 37 percent in the city.

That’s one reason why the Salt Lake City mayorship – while officially nonpartisan – has been held by Democrats since the mid-1970s.

Today, Utah has a Democratic female, gay mayor, Jackie Biskupski.

  • 53 percent of Utahns define themselves to Jones as either “very” or “somewhat” conservative in their politics and social outlook.
  • In Salt Lake City, the conservatives are only 22 percent, less than a fourth.
  • 54 percent of city residents say they are either “somewhat” or “very” liberal. That’s a majority of folks being progressives.
  • Statewide, only 14 percent say they are liberals.
  • In both the state and city, 22 percent say they are “moderates” in their politics and social outlook.

Salt Lake City is the international headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But active Mormons – who pay tithing and hold temple recommends – have become a definite minority in the city.

  • Only 25 percent of city residents define themselves to Jones as being “very active” Mormons – one-fourth of the city population.
  • While statewide, 55 percent of Utahns say they are active Mormons.
  • The percentage of “somewhat” LDS folks is about the same statewide and in the city – around 5 percent.
  • Former Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants are about the same, also, state to city.
  • But those who said they belong to some “other” religion is only 6 percent statewide, double that (14 percent) in the city.
  • And those with “no religion:” 17 percent statewide, but 36 percent – more than one third – in the city.

You can see why that in the city the LDS Church has been closing down local ward houses over the last 30 years, selling off the land.

Finally, Jones finds that city residents are better educated than Utahns as a whole. (Would anyone dare say smarter?)

  • The percent of folks holding a four-year college diploma across the state is 35 percent, 30 percent in the city.
  • But the percent of city residents with some form of post-college graduate degree – like a lawyer, doctor or accountant — is an amazing 46 percent.
  • Across the rest of the state it is a respectable 24 percent.

The city, of course, contains the University of Utah – the state’s largest public institution of higher learning.

Here are some other number breakouts to consider in the above analysis:

There are about 3.102 million people in Utah, one of the nation’s fastest-growing states.

That, of course, includes Salt Lake City. The city itself is also growing in population, now at about 193,700.

In the county itself, there are pockets of more liberal and more conservative folks, with generally the county’s east side near the city being more liberal, areas of the southwest county being more conservative.

In the statewide poll, Jones sampled 809 adults from Aug. 22-31; margin of error plus or minus 3.4 percent.

In the city, Jones polled 203 adults from Aug. 22-Sept. 12. That survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.8 percent.