Half of Utah voters say the state is on the wrong track

Utah Capitol 18

Utah voters are unhappy with their political leadership, most say the state is going in the wrong direction.

A new UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2 poll by Y2 Analytics shows that since the last survey in November, Utahns have gone from 59 percent saying Utah is going in the RIGHT direction, to 49 percent saying the state is going in the RIGHT direction. It’s a 10-percentage-point shift in just a few months.

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In 40 years of watching and writing about polling in Utah, never have I seen a shift like this in such a short time period on one of the most basic measurements by pollsters: “Do you believe the state is going in the right direction or the wrong direction.”

Here are the raw numbers:

Today, 51 percent say it is going in the wrong direction.

In November, 41 percent said the state was going in the wrong direction.

What has happened in just a few months? Tax reform.

GOP lawmakers and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert — who signed the bill into law, even if he took a backseat to its drafting by Republicans in the Utah House and Senate — pushed tax reform through a one-day special session in early December, leading to a citizen-movement referendum to repeal the package, which was clearly on its way to getting enough signatures to make the November 2020 ballot.

And then on the second day of the current 2020 Legislature, lawmakers and Herbert repealed the whole tax reform law.

The big objection — UtahPolicy.com polling showed — was putting all of the state sales tax back on food, something poll after poll before December’s action showed citizens didn’t want.

Considering that Utah has one of the best economies in the nation: The state is flush with a huge $682 million revenue surplus this year — which could lead to an income tax cut come the end of the session in March — unemployment in Utah is near record lows (2.3 percent); wages and family incomes are up; graduation rates are up in our high schools; even the winter weather is warmer — where is the unhappiness?

I mean things are great here.

And yet most voters say the state is going in the wrong direction?

Folks, something is seriously rotten in the state of Denmark — to quote a palace guard of a long-ago aggrieved prince.

Y2 polling finds:

Today, 65 percent of “strong” Republicans say the state is going in the right direction. But in November, 77 percent said it was going in the right direction, a drop of 12 percentage points. And these are the base supporters for the GOP lawmakers and Herbert.

35 percent of “strong” Republicans — more than one-third — say the state is going in the wrong direction.

Today, 58 percent of political independents say the state is going in the wrong direction, only 42 percent say going the right way.

Democrats — not surprising — basically believe Utah is in the dumps — 70 percent say it is going the wrong way, 30 percent say right direction.

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Ok, you say, how about those who are “strong” conservatives — they always like how Republicans are running things.

57 percent say the state is going in the right direction (pun intended).

But 43 percent say Utah is going in the wrong direction.

Active Mormons are a pretty conservative, optimistic bunch.

And, yes, 69 percent say Utah is going in the right direction.

But 31 percent — about one-third — say Utah is going the wrong way.

Less active Mormons are really not very happy — 63 percent, or two-thirds, say Utah is going in the wrong direction, only 37 percent say the state is being run in the right way.

In making amends, GOP legislative leaders and many House and Senate Republicans are keeping their heads down: They killed an attempt to “censure” GOP U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to remove President Donald Trump from office.

They killed a bill that would have set up a recall election for Utah U.S. Senators.

And now Herbert says he will veto any attempt to repeal or gut SB54 — the signature-gathering candidate bill the right-wing of the Utah Republican Party hates — but Utahns in general support.

All these measures are aimed — in one way or another — to blunt the archconservatives in the Legislature, and maybe make a little peace with “mainstream” GOP voters and independents — some of whom many Republican candidates will need come November’s general election.

But for now, most Utahns think the state is going in the wrong direction — and it’s being steered by whole bunch of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The Utah Political Trends survey was conducted January 16-30, 2020 by Y2 Analytics among 2,296 likely Utah voters with a margin of error +/- 2.1% points. You can read more about the polling methodology here.

UtahPolicy.com recently partnered with KUTV 2 News and Y2 Analytics and will be providing polling results on a regular basis throughout the election season.