As the Utah Republican Party filed suit against SB54, the dual-track party candidate nomination law, claiming it is unconstitutional, and GOP leaders have criticized the new dual-track candidate nomination process, support for SB54 has fallen, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.
Still, the new poll finds that 47 percent still favor SB54, passed by the 2014 Legislature in a “grand compromise” with the Count My Vote initiative backers, while 31 percent oppose SB54, and 22 percent don’t know.
Pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds, when comparing the latest results with a December poll on the same issue (SB54 support), that opposition to the dual-track process has stayed the same.
But some support for the measure has moved over to the “don’t know” column.
In December, 62 percent supported SB54, and 32 percent opposed.
Now it is 47 percent support, 31 percent oppose, and 22 percent don’t know.
For an issue so much in the public’s eye – with the 2012 Count My Vote signature petition drive and the media coverage of SB54 in last year’s Legislature, a 22 percent “don’t know” is a high number – showing the GOP’s federal lawsuit and public criticism of the new candidate nomination law is having an effect on public opinion.
One of the Republican Party’s complaints is that SB54 didn’t deal with the possible case of having three or more candidates on a party’s primary ballot, and what could happen if no candidate got over 50 percent of the vote.
Under current law, nothing would happen, and the top vote-getter – even if he or she didn’t get 50 percent – would win, be the party’s nominee and advance to the general election.
This session GOP officials are backing HB313, a bill sponsored by Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, that would say if no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two vote-getters would go back before the party – and depending on party rules, party leaders would pick the final nominee.
That would mean that if no GOP candidate in a 2016 race got more than 50 percent of the vote, most likely party delegates would get to pick the nominee.
However, in his new poll, Jones finds that such a return to the party delegates is not favored by an overwhelming number of Utahns.
Jones asked if under SB54 no candidate got 50 percent of the vote, how should the final party nominee be picked:
— 23 percent of those polled said do nothing; it is fine if the top primary vote-getter is the winner and moves on to the general election.
— 58 percent said there should be a second primary election, so party voters could pick the final nominee to go to the general election.
— And only 14 percent supported HB313 – allowing the party delegates to decide who the final nominee would be.
Five percent didn’t know or have an opinion, Jones found.
Now, one may think that GOP voters in Utah would want HB313 since that is what their state party leaders back.
But that is not the case.
When the new poll respondents are broken out by the parties, they said they belong to, Jones finds that 57 percent of Republicans favored a second primary election so that voters could pick the party nominee.
Twenty-three percent of Republicans said don’t do anything – let the plurality primary winner be the nominee and advance to the general election.
While only 14 percent of Republican rank-and-file support HB313 – where the nomination is thrown back to the party, and most likely delegates would name the final choice. Six percent of Republicans didn’t have an opinion, Jones found.
Democrats break out like this: 25 percent said do nothing and let the candidate with the most primary votes go to the general election; 60 percent said hold a second primary to pick the winner out of the top two vote-getters in the first primary; 11 percent favored HB313’s solution; and 4 percent didn’t know.
Political independents, of course, don’t belong to any party. Under SB54, they could vote in any political party’s primary, however.
Jones found that for political independents: 26 percent said don’t do anything, let the plurality primary winner advance to the general; 56 percent said hold a second primary; 13 percent said send the nomination back to the party to decide; and 4 percent didn’t know.
Finally, on the first question: Do you favor or oppose the dual-track candidate selection process made into law by SB54, when party affiliation is broke out Jones found:
— For Republicans: 44 percent favor SB54, 33 percent oppose, and 24 percent don’t know.
— For Democrats: 59 percent favor SB54’s dual-track process for candidates, 24 percent oppose, and 17 percent don’t know.
— For political independents: 46 favor SB54, 34 percent oppose, and 20 percent don’t know.
In his latest poll, Jones surveyed 406 registered voters from March 2 to March 5; the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.86 percent.