Analysis: Utah GOP Delegates are Much More Conservative than Other Republicans

Utah Republican ConventionA new comparison between two UtahPolicy polls finds that state Republican Party delegates are more conservative than Utah Republicans at large.

The delegates are – without putting too fine a point on it, and no offense offered to any – mostly old, white, Mormon men – older than most Utah Republicans, more Mormon than other Republicans and definitely more conservative.

Does this matter?

It does if these delegates are picking the Republican Party nominees for major Utah offices – where no Democrat has been victorious for years, like governor and U.S. Senate.

And it matters in the Utah Legislature, where Republicans have held large majorities since the late 1970s.

For if the GOP delegates are more conservative, more male and older, then it makes sense they will be picking more conservative, older men as their candidates – candidates who coast through the final election in districts that have not seen a Democrat win in decades.

In early January, Dan Jones & Associates conducted a wide-ranging poll of 845 Utahns; 417 of which were Republicans – matching, as Jones always does – the percent of Republicans in the poll with the percent of Republicans in Utah.

Jones then broke out for UtahPolicy those 415 rank-and-file Republicans along the same demographic lines as in his usual polling.

Around the same time, Jones polled 605 GOP state delegates and broke those respondents out along the same demographic lines.

So, we can compare the delegate demographics with the rank-and-file Utah Republican demographics.

And here are some results.

— The breakout of men and women across Utah is, of course, about the same, 50-50 percent. The same holds true for Utah Republicans, half men and half women.

— But men and women Utah GOP delegates are not equal – 75 percent of GOP delegates are men, only 25 percent women.

Jones asks his respondents their political philosophies, and they self-identify if they are “very conservative,” “somewhat conservative,” “moderate,” “liberal” or “very liberal.”

For Utah Republicans as a whole, 47 percent say they are “very conservative.

Thirty-nine percent say they are “somewhat conservative.”

But look at the GOP delegates:

— 62 percent say they are “very conservative” politically.

— And 29 percent say they are “somewhat conservative.

So, 47 percent “very conservative” among the GOP rank-and-file, 62 percent “very conservative” among the Republican state delegates: Or there are one-third more “very conservative” delegates voting on GOP candidates than their counterparts in the general Republican voting field.

Utah, of course, is the home of the LDS Church. And Jones finds in the latest poll that 55 percent of Utahns say they are “very active” Mormons.

Many Utah Mormons are Republicans – family values, a natural conservatism and so on.

Jones finds that 74 percent of Utah Republicans are “very active” Mormons.

But Jones also finds that 81 percent of the state GOP delegates are “very active” Mormons.

So GOP delegates are even more Mormon than Utah Republicans at large.

How about age?

Jones finds that across various age groups, 39 percent of Utah Republicans are between the ages of 35 and 54.

Forty-one percent of Utah Republicans are older than 55 – what the AARP, at least, considers “senior” citizens.

The GOP delegates?

Half are over the age of 55, and 41 percent are between 35 and 54 – older than the Republican rank-and-file.

There aren’t many minorities in Utah – by far most citizens fall into the White/Caucasian category. Recent U.S. Census figures show Utah is 91.4 percent white.

Republicans at large and GOP delegates aren’t much different, more than 95 percent white.

There is a debate going on now in the Utah Legislature – yes, made up mostly of older, white, Republican, Mormon men – about SB54 – the 2014 bill that this year allows a dual pathway to the political parties’ primary ballot.

One argument for SB54 is that GOP candidates can choose the petition-gathering route and bypass definitive votes by Republican Party delegates.

In short, the much-more-male-and-conservative delegates won’t get a say in who the party nominee is, rather registered Republican voters in the closed GOP primary will make those decisions.

And as Jones’ recent polling shows, those primary voters are more moderate (but not really “moderates” by any means), more female, younger and less active Mormons than the folks who have been picking many of our officeholders in the recent past.

Jones polled 605 GOP delegates from Jan. 13-16, the margin of error plus or minus 3.67 percent.

He polled 415 Utah Republicans from Jan. 6-13, margin of error plus or minus 4.8 percent.