Utahns proud to have united the nation 150 years ago

Promontory Point 01

Utahns are proud of their state’s role in uniting the nation in the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad, according to a new public opinion survey by Y2Analytics. And virtually all Utahns believe completion of the railroad was very important for the development of the United States as a nation.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike, connecting the eastern United States with the western United States. A gala “Spike150” celebration has been going on for several days, with a wide variety of events. Tens of thousands of people from across the country were expected to gather today at Promontory Point in Box Elder County to commemorate the union of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.

The recent statewide poll by Utah survey research firm Y2Analytics showed that 87 percent of Utahns (registered voters) are very or somewhat proud that the nation was connected by rail in Utah. Only 13 percent were not proud.

And a whopping 95 percent of respondents said completion of the transcontinental railroad was “very” important to the development of the country. Another 5 percent said it was “somewhat” important.

After completion of the railroad, a transcontinental trip took less than a week, compared to a grueling trek of up to six months by wagon train or ship.

The poll also showed that Utahns are quite familiar with the history of the Golden Spike and are aware of the Golden Spike National Historic Park.   

In all, 81 percent of survey respondents said they know something about the history of the Golden Spike National Historic Park, or had visited it. Perhaps that accounts for the outpouring of interest in the Spike150 activities. Only 18 percent said they had never heard of the historic park, never visited it, and didn’t know much about its history.

Virtually all Utahns also feel it is important to preserve historic sites and monuments. Seventy-one percent of respondents said preservation is “very” important, with 27 percent saying preservation is “somewhat” important, for a total of 98 percent supporting preservation of historic sites and monuments.

The survey research showed Utahns look especially to their state government to preserve historic sites and monuments. Pollsters asked which groups should play a major role, minor role, or no role at all in preserving historic sites and monuments. Here are the results:

State government:  81 percent, major role; 18 percent, minor role; and 1 percent, no role at all.

Federal government: 51, 40, 9.

Local government: 45, 41, 14.

Private organizations and charities: 43, 49, 8.

And, fun fact, Utahns were pretty good at remembering the name of one of the steam engines that was involved in the original 1869 ceremony. Asked to pick out the name of the engine from these choices, Jupiter, Mars, Venus or Mercury, 68 percent of respondents correctly picked Jupiter, the Central Pacific steam locomotive. Twenty-four percent chose Mercury; 5 percent chose Mars; and 3 percent, Venus.

Survey methodology:

n= 807 Registered voters

Online interviews fielded April 16 – April 22, 2019

Margin of error +- 3 percentage points

For this survey, 807 Utahns were sampled from a publicly available list of registered voters in Utah. Survey invitations were sent to email addresses purchased from a third-party vendor.

The data were weighted to ensure that the demographics of the respondents were reflective of all registered voters in the state of Utah, specifically in regards to age, gender, and county.