Poll: Half of Utahns Say They Approve of the Utah Transit Authority

Utah Transit AuthorityEven though the Utah Transit Authority has recently taken their lumps in the court of public opinion, half of Utahns say the approve of the job the agency is doing.

A new UtahPolicy.com survey conducted by Dan Jones & Associates finds 50% of Utahns say they either “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the performance of the UTA. A little more than a third (36%) say they disapprove. 13% replied they didn’t know.

The UTA came under fire for paying executives high salaries and bonuses while, at the same time, riders complained about poor bus service. Another black eye for the agency was overseas travel by officials. The UTA board cracked down, requiring all international travel to be approved in board meetings. But, in August, two board members went with lawmakers to Switzerland with lawmakers and lobbyists. UTA chairman H. David Burton said the board did not have knowledge of the trip until after it came to light. 
Further complicating the most recent Swiss trip is what appears to be a concerted effort to conceal the travel. The sojourn was funded by a political action committee formed by the two UTA board members.
All of this has eroded public trust in the agency and has been blamed for the failure of Prop. 1 in Utah and Salt Lake Counties in November. The ballot initiative, which would have hiked sales taxes to pay for transit and transportation needs, would have provided funding for UTA to expand bus service. UTA executives acknowledge that poor public perception likely led to Prop. 1’s defeat.
Following the Switzerland trip flap, House Speaker Greg Hughes appointed Democrat Babs De Lay to the UTA board after three members resigned.
The issue of the UTA has wormed its way into the 2016 election. Republican Jonathan Johnson, who is challenging Gov. Gary Herbert for the GOP nomination in 2016, has proposed making UTA board members elected rather than appointed. Gov. Herbert has expressed support for appointing elected officials to the UTA board to increase accountability. Johnson aired radio ads in December calling for the popular election of UTA board members.
Johnson may be on to something.

Our survey finds 47% of Utahns say that UTA board members should be elected while 29% think they should continue to be appointed.

The call for electing board members enjoys near or above 50% support across all political parties:
– 47% of Republicans and independents say they would like to see board members elected.
– 52% of Democrats want to have board members elected.
– 32% of Republicans want to keep appointing board members
– 22% of Democrats and 29% of independents want board members appointed.
The survey was conducted December 8-14, 2015 among 622 adults in Utah with a margin of error +/- 3.93%.