Truth Committee Liked by Republicans, but Opposed Overall

A majority of Republican registered voters support the idea of having a “truth” committee interview party candidates. But independent voters oppose the idea, and Utah voters, overall, oppose the idea 48 to 44 percent, according to a new UtahPolicy poll.

GOP state chairman James Evans floated that idea several weeks ago as one response to SB54’s dual candidate path to a party primary.

Utah Republican Party leaders hate the new election law, have sued in federal court to overturn it, and are just now coming around to how party rules must be changed to accommodate the new election process for the 2016 elections.

While some party loyalists are criticizing such an interview – or “Truth Commission” – process and saying it will never happen, the question was included in a special survey Evans recently sent out to 60,000 Republican caucus-goers, GOP delegates and officeholders.

Evans did not attempt to survey, or poll, the 600,000 or so Utah voters who have registered as Republicans.

The UP poll, conducted by long-time Utah pollster Dan Jones & Associates, is a scientific survey that does reflect those 600,000 GOP Utahns – as well as Democrats, political independents and minor party members.

Jones polled 803 registered voters between May 4-12. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percent.

As he always does, Jones broke out those polled by political party preference.

And that demographic shows that 56 percent of Republicans favor a candidate interview-by-committee process.

But political independents really don’t like such a “Truth Commission,” as it has been dubbed by critics both inside and outside of the Republican Party.

 Jones found that 61 percent of political independents “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose such a candidate Republican Party stamp of approval.

Now, one may quickly say that it doesn’t matter what political independents think on this issue – it is an internal Republican Party matter and only what registered Republicans think is of importance to the party policymakers — the 4,000 state GOP delegates and the 180 members of the party’s Central Committee.

If one only looks at internal GOP processes, that is true.

But Jones and UtahPolicy editors went one step further, and asked in the poll if setting up such an interview-by-committee candidate vetting process would make them more or less likely to vote for a Republican candidate in the future.

And this is the important finding:

— 56 percent of political independents said such a GOP candidate-vetting process would make them “less likely” to vote for a Republican candidate at the polls.

— Only 26 percent of independents said if Republicans set up what’s been called in the media a “Truth Commission” would they be more likely to vote for a GOP candidate.

In many Utah races, the GOP candidate can win without many, or any, votes from political independents – Republican voters hold such supermajorities in those geographic areas.

But there are many races where the political independents decide the final victor – either a Republican or a Democrat.

Former U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, won his races for more than a decade mainly because he carried the independent voters by 60 percent or more.

A number of legislative and county races in Salt Lake County swing on the victor getting most of the independent vote.

Smart politicos may caution GOP leaders that how they deal with SB54 – and providing some kind of party “scrutiny” of candidates who decide in 2016 to bypass the party’s caucus/delegate/convention system and get on the GOP primary ballot via voter signature petitions – the new UtahPolicy poll shows that Evans doesn’t have to worry about his own party members on this controversial issue.

Fifty-six percent of GOP voters FAVOR the interview-by-committee process, Jones found.

And 56 percent of Republicans said they would be MORE likely to vote for a GOP candidate even if the party sets up such a candidate screening committee.

So, within his own party ranks, Evans is safe (most likely) to move ahead with the interview-by-committee process.

But, the poll also shows, there could well be repercussions at the polls if the GOP sets up such a screening committee.

Here is the wording of the two questions:

“Utah’s Republican Party leaders are considering setting up a special committee to interview candidates who use the petition-gathering process to get onto the 2016 GOP primary ballot to determine if their views adhere to the party's platform.”

“If a candidate refused to be interviewed, his or her party membership could be revoked and the candidate would be unable to run as a Republican. If he or she disagreed with party principles, the party could make differences known during primary elections.”

“Do you favor or oppose this proposed process?”

And the second question:

“If the state Republican Party did set up such a committee, would that make you more or less likely to vote for GOP candidates in the future?”

On the first question, should the state GOP set up such a candidate interview-by-committee, Jones finds:

— Among all voters, 44 percent like the idea, 48 percent oppose it and 8 percent didn’t know.

— Among just registered Republicans, 56 like the idea, 37 percent oppose it and 7 percent didn’t know.

— Among Democratic voters, 34 percent like the idea, 60 percent oppose it, and 7 percent didn’t know.

— Among political independents (who don’t belong to any party), 21 percent like the idea, 61 percent oppose it and 7 percent didn’t know.

Now, various surveys have found in the past that GOP delegates are more conservative than rank-and-file Republicans.

Jones found that among those who said they are “very conservative,” 62 percent like the interview-by-committee process, 31 percent oppose and 7 percent didn’t know.

Of interest, in his monthly KUED Channel 7 press conference last week, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who is running for re-election in 2016, said that he doesn’t like the idea of a special committee being set up in his party to quiz potential candidates.

However, Herbert added that he thinks it may be a good idea for candidates to in some manner say if they support the state party platform, and detail where they disagree with it, if they do.

On the second poll question – would you be more or less likely to vote GOP if the party sets up such a “Truth Commission:”

— Among all voters, 31 percent said they would be more likely to vote GOP with such a committee in place, 41 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a Republican candidate and 18 percent didn’t know.

— Among GOP voters, 56 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a Republican with the system in place, 26 percent said less likely and 18 percent didn’t know.

— Among Democratic voters, 22 percent more likely to vote GOP, 64 percent less likely, 14 percent didn’t know.

— Among independents, 26 percent more likely to vote GOP, 56 percent less likely and 18 percent didn’t know.

Among those who said they are “very conservative” politically (and thus more likely to be GOP caucus-goers and delegates), 61 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a Republican candidate, 21 percent said they would be less likely and 19 percent said they didn’t know.

Finally, among those who said they are “moderate” politically – or in the middle – 35 percent said they would be more likely to vote GOP, 48 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a Republican candidate, and 20 percent didn’t know.

Evans told UtahPolicy last week that he believes 90 percent of the 4,000 state delegates will attend the Republican State Convention on Aug. 15 – a very high turnout for an off-election-year convention.

Not only will those delegates have to amend GOP internal rules to accommodate SB54, they will also vote on whether to re-elect Evans to another two year term as chairman, or pick someone else to lead the party into the 2016 elections.