Utahns overwhelmingly oppose reinstating the sales tax on food

Utah Capitol 19

Utahns really oppose putting the state sales tax back on unprepared food, a new UtahPolicy.com poll shows.

Dan Jones & Associates found that 67 percent of adults “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose the state Legislature reinstating the so-called “food tax,” with 46 percent strongly against it.

Only 26 percent want the food tax put back on as part of GOP Gov. Gary Herbert’s push to broaden the sales tax base – and only if some way is found to give an offsetting tax break to low-income Utahns, the pollster found.

Seven percent of those polled didn’t have an opinion.

Tens of millions of dollars can be found by reforming the sales tax and making it fairer across the board, says Herbert.

He also wants a $225 million tax cut for Utahns this legislative general session. And he wants that in the sales tax, but will accept some kind of mix in sales and income tax cuts.

Key to all this sales tax reform is broadening the base, mainly to include any number of services, like haircuts, that are not now taxed.

The rate would be reduced accordingly, says Herbert.

There is general support for broadening the sales tax base, a previous published UtahPolicy poll finds – 67 percent, in fact.

But keep your mitts off of the food tax break, Utahns are telling Herbert and GOP legislators (who will be making this decision).

In some recent Legislatures, a few Republican leaders have talked about reinstating the food sales tax, in part to broaden the base and make the tax overall healthier.

But DJA finds opposition to reinstating the tax runs across partisan, age and religious demographics:

— Folks over 65, who likely live on fixed incomes, oppose bringing back the food tax, 70-27 percent.

— Republicans oppose a new food tax, 68-24 percent.

— Democrats don’t like the idea, 61-32 percent.

— Political independents are against it, 70-25 percent.

Most of the GOP lawmakers would consider themselves conservatives.

Well, your base is against this food tax reinstatement, too:

— Those who told DJA they are “very conservative” are opposed, 72-23 percent, with 55 percent “very opposed” to a new food tax.

— The “somewhat” conservative folks against, 65-28 percent.

— “Moderates” are against, 69-24 percent.

— The “somewhat” liberals against, 61-32 percent.

— And the “very” liberals against, 62-28 percent.

Finally, there is a religious element to the responses, since how we take care of low-income people is an ethical question:

— Those who said they are “very active” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints oppose re-imposing the food tax, 69-25 percent

— Those who said they are “somewhat” active in the LDS Church are against it, 54-32 percent.

— Folks who used to be Mormons, but have left the faith, are against it, 63-22 percent.

— 67 percent of Catholics are against it; 84 percent of Protestants; 53 percent of those who said they hold other faiths are against it; and 64 percent of people who said they hold no religious faith are against it.

With these kinds of numbers, it is unlikely Herbert and the Republican-controlled, LDS faith-dominant Legislature would reinstate the food sales tax this year.


Survey Methodology:

Poll by conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from January 3 – 15, 2019. 822 Registered voters were interviewed. Data collection was conducted by live call center agents (42 percent landline telephone, 32 percent cellphone), and a portion of the survey was conducted via email invite from an online panel (26 percent). The margin of error for the statewide questions is +/- 3.4 percent.