Poll: Utah Republicans Favor Signature-Gathering Route to the Primary Ballot

button2As GOP candidates prepare to go before their party delegates in the April 23 state convention, a new UtahPolicy poll finds that most Republicans favor the dual-route for candidates to the party’s primary election – even as party leaders continue to fight that new law in court.

The Dan Jones & Associates survey finished less than a week ago, finds that 57 percent of those who self-identified as members of the Utah Republican Party favor SB54 – the new dual-route law.

Only 22 percent of Republicans oppose the new signature-gathering route, and support only the traditional caucus/delegate/convention, while 20 percent of Republicans don’t know.

Across the state, among all Utahns, 58 percent support the dual-route to the primary ballot, 20 percent oppose – favoring the party convention route for candidates – and 22 percent don’t know, Jones found. 

Interestingly enough, Utah Democrats are close to their GOP neighbors on this question: 59 percent of the minority party in the state like the dual-route law, 21 percent favor just the party convention route and 21 percent don’t know.

Political independents – who don’t belong to either major party – can vote in the open Democratic primary.

But Republicans close their primary – even though it is paid for by Utah taxpayers. So unless a voter registers as a Republican, he can’t vote in a GOP primary election, where in many cases, considering Utah’s conservative politics, the final winner is picked — the Democratic candidate having no real chance in the November election.

Jones found that 62 percent of political independents like the dual-track candidate option, only 14 percent like the convention process (where independents are not likely to participate) and 23 percent don’t know.

As most UtahPolicy readers know, the state GOP has been fighting SB54 since it was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2014.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who faces delegates in two weeks, signed the bill into law. But he now says he should have vetoed it and let the Count My Vote citizen initiative petition go forward that year.

CMV backers abandoned their petition – even though they claimed to have the required 101,000 voters signatures to get it on the general election ballot – in order to compromise with legislative Republicans over SB54.

GOP state chairman James Evans and his Central Committee have been going to court ever since. And just last week lost two rounds, first in federal court and then before the Utah Supreme Court.

So, SB54 stands, at least for now, as more than 100 candidates (most of them Republicans, including Herbert) are going the signature route AND going before their delegates in county and state party conventions.

Herbert has been certified to the June 28 GOP primary ballot via the signature route (28,000 gathered). He can’t be eliminated in the April 23state convention.

But his primary challenger, Jonathan Johnson, is only going before delegates.

 Johnson must get 40 percent of the delegate vote, or he will be eliminated. Even if Johnson gets 60 percent of the delegate vote – usually the convention nomination threshold – he would still face Herbert in the primary.

Jones finds support for SB54 – the dual-route law – up and down the demographic profile:

  • 50 percent of those who said they are “very conservative” politically – the core backbone of the Utah GOP — are in favor of the dual route, 32 percent want the convention route only, and 18 percent don’t know.

(Thus, it is evident GOP leaders are going against the wishes of many of their core party members.)

  • 56 percent of those who said they are “somewhat conservative” favor the dual route, 24 percent favor only the convention route, and 21 percent don’t know.
  • 69 percent of “moderates” like the dual route, 13 percent want the convention, 17 percent don’t know.
  • 69 percent of those who said they are “very liberal” like the dual route, 14 percent want the convention, and 16 percent don’t know.

The only group to fall below 50 percent support for the dual route law are those who said they subscribe to Tea Party ideals.

Tea Partiers favor the dual route over the convention, 43 percent to 34 percent, with 24 percent undecided.

One of the criticisms of the caucus/convention system is that those with busy lives can’t make the Tuesday night March caucus meetings, and so can’t participate in picking delegates. (The GOP allowed for an absentee ballot option in last March’s caucus meetings.)

Many LDS families maintain those busy lives – and so may miss their caucus meetings — even though LDS Church leaders have asked that all church functions on caucus night be postponed, as a general civic encouragement by the church.

Jones finds in the new survey that 63 percent of “very active” LDS members like the signature dual-route option for candidates/voters, only 19 percent favor the caucus/convention route alone, and 18 percent don’t know.

Jones polled 600 adult Utahns between March 23 and April 5. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.