Poll: Utahns Favor Sales Tax Hike to Fund Transportation Needs

Most Salt Lakers and most Utahns favor a small increase in the sales tax to help fund local roads and mass transit, new polls by UtahPolicy show.

In both a poll of Salt Lake City registered voters, and a separate poll of all Utahns, pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds support for a 0.25 percent sales tax hike passed by the 2015 Legislature.


The increase is not applied until voters – county by county – approve it.

Many county officials are considering putting the sales tax hike on their November 2015 general election ballots – for voters to impose or reject.

The Salt Lake County Council voted Tuesday to put the matter on its November ballot.

Meanwhile, opponents of the tax hikes – like the Utah Taxpayer Association – say county officials shouldn’t put the measures before voters this November, as it is only a city election and some county voters with no other issue on the ballot may not bother to vote.

Opponents want the tax-hike authority, if put before voters at all, to come in the November 2016 general election – a presidential/U.S. Senate/gubernatorial election in Utah where more voters will likely cast ballots.

In any case, as it stands now Jones finds support for the 0.25 percent sales tax increase – both in Salt Lake City and statewide.

Salt Lake City is the main hub for the Utah Transit Authority’s various operations – buses, light-rail (TRAX) and heavy rail (FrontRunner).

Jones’ finding in a survey of 83 registered voters in Salt Lake City:

— Asked if they would “definitely” or “probably” vote for the road/transit sales tax hike, 54 percent of Salt Lake City voters said they would vote for it, 41 percent said the would vote against it and 5 percent didn’t know.

That survey was conducted July 7-21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.99 percent.

In a statewide poll:

— Asked if they “strongly” or “somewhat” supported the 0.25 percent sales tax hike, 56 percent of all Utah registered voters said they would support such a tax hike, 40 percent said they would oppose it, and 3 percent didn’t know.

That survey was taken July 14-21 of 610 registered voters statewide and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.97 percent.

Advocates for such a tax hike – city officials, the Utah Transit Authority and various business and civic groups that want better roads and mass transit – have yet to start any pro-sales tax increase efforts.

Going into their Fall advocacy campaigns they must be pleased with Jones’ latest poll results, both in Salt Lake City and statewide.

While opponents of the tax hike argue Utahns may not be engaged this November, that is likely not the case in Salt Lake City – where there is a hot mayoral race and incumbent Mayor Ralph Becker has some serious challengers.

In the city poll, Jones finds:

— 72 percent of Salt Lake Democrats support the tax hike, 25 percent oppose.

— 44 percent of Republicans support it, 50 percent oppose.

— And among political independents (no party affiliation), 53 percent support increasing the sales tax by 0.25 percent, 43 percent oppose.

Salt Lake City is one of the few Democratic strongholds in the state.

And so it may figure that city voters would support better roads and especially mass transit.

But Jones finds support for the sales tax hike as well across the state – where Republicans rule.

In the statewide poll:

— 51 percent of Republicans support the road/transit sales tax increase, 45 percent oppose.

— 78 percent of Democrats support the tax hike, 20 percent oppose.

— 56 percent of independents support the increase, 41 percent oppose.

The Utah Transit Authority went through a light-rail, heavy-rail expansion program over the last couple of years as federal transit dollars became available to stimulate the economy coming out of the Great Recession.

Transit bosses now promise to concentrate on improving bus service over the next few years.