Does Biskupski Possibly Becoming Salt Lake City’s First Openly Gay Mayor Affect the Race?

A new UtahPolicy poll finds that three-fourths of likely Salt Lake City mayoral voters say the fact that Jackie Biskupski would be the city’s first gay mayor has no bearing on who they favor this election. In fact, the poll shows being gay helps Biskupski more than hurts her.

More city voters say they are MORE likely to vote for Biskupski because she is gay than say they are LESS likely.

Yet the survey by Dan Jones & Associates also finds that among certain demographic groups Biskupski’s sexuality does indeed make a difference and influences their votes.

The mayor’s race is officially nonpartisan – meaning Mayor Ralph Becker and former legislator Biskupski’s political party affiliation doesn’t appear on the ballot next to their names.

But both are well-known Democrats – at one time each holding minority leadership posts in the Utah House.

And as UtahPolicy has pointed out several times, Becker – considered the more moderate of the two – needs to appeal to city Republicans in this close contest – a dead heat in Jones’ latest poll released Monday.

And among those who self-categorized themselves as Republicans, or “very active” Mormons, or “very conservative” in their political philosophy, the fact that Biskupski would be the capital city’s first gay mayor has an effect, the poll shows.

For example:

  • 38 percent (more than one-third) of those who said they are Republicans said Biskupski being gay makes them less likely to vote for her.
  • 60 percent of Republicans said her sexuality “makes no difference” in their voting preference, and 2 percent didn’t know.
  • Half (50 percent) of those who said they are “very conservative” politically said Biskupski being gay makes them less likely to vote for her.
  • 50 percent said it makes no difference.
  • Among those who said they are “very active” in the LDS Church, 29 percent (more than one-fourth) said Biskupski’s sexuality makes them less likely to vote for her.
  • While 69 percent of very active Mormons said it makes no difference to them.

Among all voters who told Jones they are most likely to vote this election, 12 percent said Biskupski being gay makes them MORE likely to vote for her.

Ten percent said it makes them LESS likely to vote for her.

And 78 percent – more than three-fourths – said her sexuality makes no difference to them in how they will vote for mayor.

Before the politically correct among us criticizes UtahPolicy for even asking the Biskupski/gay question, it should be noted:

  • First, clearly for some groups Biskupski being gay does make a difference. And so Biskupski being the first gay mayor has an impact.
  • Secondly, Biskupski herself has raised the issue in her campaigning, saying she is not “a gay candidate” alone and brings many qualifications to the table.

She has gotten into a public debate with Becker over who is more gay-friendly, and who has the most support from the city’s relatively large, and certainly active, gay community.

Over the weekend, The Salt Lake Tribune ran a second op-ed piece by a Biskupski supporter saying Biskupski has done more for the gay community and gay rights than has the mayor.

A pro-Becker group of human rights/gay activists also has written a Trib op-ed dealing with the mayor’s gay rights agenda.

And Equality Utah, the state’s leading gay rights group, has endorsed both Becker and Biskupski – an interesting split — while Biskupski is touting endorsements by other gay rights organizations this election.

In an election outside of Salt Lake City, Biskupski’s sexuality would most likely harm her – as Republicans and active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominate the electorate in most of Utah.

But both are a minority in the capital city, Jones’ demographics show.

Among those who told Jones they are most likely to vote in this election:

  • Only 19 percent said they are Republicans, 36 percent are Democrats, 35 percent are political independents and 6 percent mentioned some other political party.

Jones finds: That among likely voting Republicans, 57 percent favor Becker, 29 percent like Biskupski, and 14 percent don’t know.

Among Democrats, 54 percent favor Biskupski, 41 percent say Becker and 3 percent don’t know.

Among political independents – who don’t belong to any political party – 44 percent favor Biskupski, 40 percent say Becker and 11 percent don’t know.

By far Utah is the most Mormon state in the nation, with around 60 percent of citizens saying they belong to that faith.

But Salt Lake City is much different, Jones finding in his newest survey:

  • 26 percent said they are “very active” in the LDS Church, 6 percent said they are “somewhat active” in the Mormon Church, 4 percent said they are inactive Mormons, 8 percent said they are Catholics, 5 percent said Protestant, 14 percent mentioned some other religion, and 33 percent said they have no religion at all.

Thus, while the demographic groups where Biskupski being the first gay mayor has an effect are present in the city electorate, they are by far fewer in numbers than otherwise represented outside the city.

Still, in such a close race it is possible to see that Biskupski’s sexuality could play a part in who wins the mayor’s seat for the next four years, Jones’ findings indicate.