How fitting that the first Insight Award given by the Utah Foundation should go to public policy experts and long-time pollsters Dan and Pat Jones.
The couple, who celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last month, were honored at a foundation 70th-anniversary luncheon and remembrance in the Grand America Hotel Tuesday.
Dan Jones & Associates was formed by Dan and Pat way back in 1980. One of its first clients was the Deseret News – later to be joined by KSL-TV.
Almost from the first of those newspaper polls I was writing stories about Jones’ surveys.
As first a City Hall reporter, then state government reporter, then political editor, over the last years I’ve written literally hundreds of Jones poll stories.
Now as a contributing editor for UtahPolicy I find myself writing Jones poll stories again.
I never tire of it because Jones’ polls educate Utahns on the issues of the day – not just the sexy questions who is ahead in which race, but what citizens are thinking, how they want their representatives to act, what they like and don’t like, want and don’t want.
You can cite all the anecdotal tales you like, but without statistical, unbiased, accurately-measured public opinion surveys like the Joneses have been providing for more than 35 years, well, you just don’t know for sure.
And how proper it is that Dan and Pat Jones are honored for their years of service to Utah, to good government and measuring public opinion on thousands of issues important to the state and its citizens.
Part of the luncheon festivities was having Pat and Dan sit on a couch on stage and be interviewed by Dan Bammes – who for years was a radio reporter in town and now is director of communications for the Utah Foundation.
I’ve known Dan Jones for many years, Pat too after she became more active in the polling business and then as a Utah House and Senate member.
She recently retired from the Senate and now is CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce’s Women Leadership Group.
The Joneses sold Dan Jones & Associates to the Cicero Group in 2010.
But as Dan put it: “I’m not retired.” For the last several years he’s been doing polling for UtahPolicy and its new sister publication Idaho Politics Weekly – all with the help of Zions Bank, sponsors of both newsletters.
As well as I know Dan – and I’ve been working with him for most of 35 years – I still learned some new items Tuesday.
First, he has a twin sister.
I wonder if she’s as intense as he is.
The Joneses also had some hard financial times when starting out with their business. Dan subsidized his polling income – which he said Tuesday sometimes didn’t show much of a profit – by teaching political science at the University of Utah.
He holds a Ph.D. in political science.
He was closely associated with the Hinckley Institute of Politics, and taught and sponsored thousands of Hinckley interns over the years.
Dan said if not for IHC – Intermountain Health Care – maybe he wouldn’t have made it in the polling business (he would often tell me that his work for the Deseret News just broke even – he didn’t make much money from the newspaper work).
For decades, Dan Jones & Associates would call IHC patients after their doctor visits and surgeries, asking how the hospital chain did in helping provide care.
Asked by Bammes how he sees politics today, Dan said never has he measured the divisiveness, the partisanship, of these times.
Known to get carried away with his speech at times, Dan leaned forward, raised his voice: “I say to the extremes on both sides, you are not doing us any favors” in America “by quoting Jefferson or Madison” or any other Founding Fathers – for those men wouldn’t side with extreme politics, then or now.
The Joneses have a blended family, seven kids, and 31 grandkids, and, said Pat, it was not always easy to run a business, serve in the Legislature, teach college, and find time for it all.
But, said Pat, it is her job now to encourage women to realize their potential.
While it may be challenging, a woman can be a wife and mother and still work outside the home, still be involved in public policy, run for office and serve.
They were, and are, a true partnership – Dan taking care of the data side of polling, while Pat became an expert in running focus groups – both for political campaigns and for businesses.
Dan said he’s proud that he’s been the pollster from every Utah governor since Democrat Scott Matheson.
But it was hard on the firm when Pat decided to run as a Democrat for the Utah Legislature – and some Republican clients felt pressure to drop Dan Jones & Associates.
Still, things have worked out.
“We aren’t retired,” shouted out Dan at the end of the program.
He’s polling for UtahPolicy and still involved in public issues, although he’s retired from the University of Utah, and Pat is taking on her new job with the Salt Lake Chamber.
Congratulations to both of them – lives well lived.