Poll: Majority of Utahns Support Allowing Candidates to Gather Signatures to Get on Primary Ballot

Vote StickersNearly 60 percent of Utahns agree that candidates should be able to get on the primary ballot by gathering signatures of their party voters, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.

The same survey finds that only a quarter of Utahns agree with the Utah Republican Party leaders, and that the only way a candidate can get on the primary ballot is by going through the caucus/delegate/convention party process.

Just as revealing, the new survey by Dan Jones & Associates shows that more GOP voters favor the signature-gathering route than support their own party leaders’ convention-only alternative.

The results indicate, as other public opinion surveys have, that state Republican Party leaders’ continued opposition to SB54 – a new law which has been upheld in both federal and state courts – goes against what most of their very own rank-and-file party members wish.

The next step in party leaders’ opposition to SB54 – which allows for a signature-gathering route to a party primary, or the traditional caucus/convention route, or both at the same time – may well be to actively OPPOSE a GOP candidate who takes the signature-gathering route but didn’t get at least 40 percent of his or her delegate vote in convention.

The Utah County Republican Party is already doing this – actually opposing several Republican candidates who didn’t successfully following the county convention process.

June 4 the state Republican Party Central Committee will meet to discuss doing the same thing: Oppose any federal, state or multi-county legislative candidate who didn’t get at least 40 percent of the GOP delegate vote in April’s Republican State Convention.

If the CC does so, it will be the first time in memory that the Utah Republican Party took sides in a party primary election – where party resources are used against a candidate of their own party.

Jones also asked poll respondents if they are more or less likely to vote for a candidate who takes the signature route over the convention route – or if it doesn’t matter what route to the primary ballot someone chooses.

He finds that by far most Utahns don’t care how a candidate gets on the primary ballot.

But when a voter does have a preference, he or she prefers a candidate who actually gathered signatures rather than one who went through the party’s preferred convention route.


Jones finds:

  • 59 percent of Utahns agree with the SB54 law, and like the signature-gathering option.
  • 25 percent prefer the state GOP’s caucus/convention process, and 16 percent don’t know.
  • Among GOP voters themselves, 47 percent agree with the Count My Vote/SB54 alternative.
  • 38 percent favor their own party leaders’ caucus/convention-only stand, and 16 percent don’t know.
  • Democrats and political independents’ stands on SB54 vs. convention aren’t even close: Democrats favor SB54 over convention, 82-6 percent.
  • Independents favor SB54 over convention, 68-16 percent.

The argument has been made for some time that GOP state leaders are really looking out for their own power, and the power of their delegates and the right-wing of the party, over the preferences of the rank-and-file in the SB54 fight.

Indeed, Jones finds that among those who self-selected as being “very conservative” politically, 44 percent favor SB54 route, 44 percent favor convention route, and 12 percent don’t know.

But the numbers switch when Jones looks at those who say they are “somewhat conservative,” “moderate,” and “liberal” politically:

  • 48 percent of “somewhat conservative” favor SB54 route, 30 percent say convention; and 69 percent of the “moderates” favor SB54 route, only 16 percent like convention.

How Utah picks its candidates inside of a primary election is not a religious or moral issue. And LDS Church leaders have not taken a stand on the 2014 Count My Vote citizen initiative petition, nor its political compromise, SB54.

Still, here are some interesting numbers:

  • Among those who told Jones they are “very active” in the Mormon Church, 50 percent said they like the Count My Vote/SB54 signature-gathering alternative, only 35 percent of active Mormons prefer the caucus/delegate/convention route, and 15 percent don’t know.

Will it hurt a Republican signature-gathering candidate if his own party comes out against him before the June 28 primary?

One would think so.

So Jones asked if it would make a difference to a party primary voter if the candidate got on the ballot via signatures or convention delegate approval.

He finds:

  • Among all Utahns, 50 percent said it makes no difference to them – won’t affect their vote – how a candidate got on the primary ballot.
  • 32 percent are more likely to support a primary candidate who makes the ballot by signature-gathering.
  • 12 percent said they are less likely to support a candidate who made the ballot by signatures over a delegate convention candidate, and 7 percent didn’t know.
  • 53 percent of Republicans said they don’t care how a candidate got on their party’s primary ballot, 26 percent said they would be more inclined to vote for a signature candidate (just the opposite of what some party leaders wish), with only 15 percent saying they are more likely to support a primary candidate who came through the convention process.
  • Democrats and independents are not much different: 48 percent said route to primary makes no difference in their vote, 41 percent more inclined to vote for a signature candidate, 4 percent said less inclined to vote for a signature candidate.
  • 47 percent of independents said it makes no difference to them how a candidate got on the primary ballot, 37 percent said more likely to vote for the signature candidate, 9 percent said more inclined to vote for a convention-route candidate.

Even among those who said they are “very conservative,” the party’s preferred convention candidate doesn’t get a boost.

Jones finds that 47 percent of the “very conservatives” said it makes no difference to their vote how a candidate got on the primary ballot, 25 percent said they’d favor a signature candidate, 25 percent said they’d favor a convention candidate.

When you get to the “somewhat conservative” voters, it’s not even close: 60 percent said makes no difference to them how the candidate made the ballot, 23 percent said they would favor the signature candidate, and only 10 percent said they would favor the convention route candidate.

Now we’ll see what the 180-member state Republican Party’s CC will do in the coming weeks.

Jones polled 588 Utahns from May 2-10. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.04 percent.