Most Utahns want the Salt Lake Tribune to survive, but just over a quarter say they’re readers

Most Utahns want to see the Salt Lake Tribune survive their financial problems and remain in business according to a new survey.

The Utah Political Trends poll from and Y2 Analytics asked registered voters in Utah “Over the past few years, local newspapers, such as the Salt Lake Tribune, have had a difficult time staying profitable. Some of these papers have even gone out of business. Do you think it’s important for the Salt Lake Tribune to stay in business?”

57% of Utahns said they would like to see the Tribune stay in business, while 43% said they would not.

20190728 save trib utp scooped in May that the Tribune was attempting to dump their for-profit model and transition to a non-profit organization funded by a foundation. The move would be the first for a legacy newspaper in the U.S. 

Paul Huntsman bought the troubled paper in 2015 and has reportedly pumped millions of dollars into the operation to keep it afloat as expenses outstripped dwindling advertising revenue. There have been rumors for quite some time that Huntsman wanted to exit from ownership of the financially struggling paper.

Fewer than half of the Republicans we surveyed said it is not important for the Tribune to keep publishing, while Democrats and independents feel differently. 

  • 62% of “strong Republicans,” 52% of moderate Republicans and 55% of independents who lean Republican said it’s not important for the Tribune to stay in business.
  • 57% of independent voters, 82% of “strong” Democrats, 76% of moderate Democrats and 78% of independents who lean Democratic would like the Tribune to remain in business.

Older Utahns are more likely to say it’s important for the Tribune to remain in business. 

  • 64% of Utahns over the age of 65 and 58% of Utahns between 55 and 64 years old say the paper should keep operating. 
  • 57% of Utahns between 45 and 54 and 58% of those between 35 and 44 say it’s important to keep the Tribune afloat.
  • Just half of millennial and Gen Z Utahns (between 18 and 34) say it’s important for the Tribune to remain in business.

Utahns who want to see the Tribune prosper seemingly like having more than one daily newspaper in Salt Lake City. Multiple newspapers used to be the norm, but the state’s capital city is one of the few with more than one daily publishing right now, the other being the Deseret News. 58% of those who said it was important for the Trib to remain in business want Salt Lake to have as many local newspapers as possible. 

Respondents were more ambivalent about other reasons for wanting the Tribune to stick around. For instance, the Tribune likes to brand itself as a watchdog on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Only 34% said the Tribune is the only paper that can hold the Church accountable. The Deseret News along with KSL Radio and TV is owned by the LDS Church.

Just under a third said the Tribune is the only paper that can hold politicians accountable, while 33% said the paper “speaks for the minority” in the state. 

Last year the Tribune won their second-ever Pulizter Prize, but that is seemingly not a huge draw for supporters. Only 31% said the Tribune is the “most trustworthy” news source in Utah.

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Obviously, the biggest factor in the Tribune’s continued survival is whether news consumers choose to read the paper. When asked if they read the Tribune, only 29% of Utahns said they do, while 71% said they do not. 

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While the so-called “liberal media” may be an overwrought rhetorical tool, it is true that the Tribune’s readership skews to the left side of the political spectrum. 

  • 52% of Utahns who say they “strongly” liberal and 47% of “moderate” liberals say they read the Tribune. 
  • Just 10% of “strong” conservatives and 19% of “moderate” conservatives say they are readers. Just over a third of political moderates (36%) count themselves as readers.

The Tribune started charging for access to their online content in 2018. That seemingly was a prudent move. Of those who say they read the Tribune, more than ⅔ say they access that content online, while just 21% say they use the print edition. 10% say they subscribe online as well as to the physical newspaper.

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The Utah Political Trends Panel was conducted among a random sample of 2,608 registered Utah voters using an online survey. The results were weighted to reflect Utah’s demographic makeup. The survey has a margin of error +/- 2.1%. You can read more about the survey’s methodology here.