Civic engagement report: Despite improvements, Utah voter turnout at low end in 2020
Today, the Utah Foundation launches its new Utah Social Capital Series with The Measure of a Citizen: Civic Engagement in Utah. This first installment in the series focuses on civic engagement. It presents data and analysis on three key measures: voter turnout; citizen attendance at public meetings; and the number of advocacy organizations. It looks at Utah’s performance on these measures over time, comparing the Beehive State both to the seven other Mountain States and to the nation at large.
Among the findings of the new report:
Voter turnout in Utah has improved in recent election cycles – after having languished near the very bottom nationally. The state rank surged to 13th among the 50 states in the 2018 midterm election. However, in the 2020 presidential election cycle, Utah ranked only 39th nationally and sixth among the eight Mountain States.
Citizen attendance at public meetings is a strong point for Utah. In 2019, Vermont and Maine were the only states in the nation that outperformed Utah on meeting participation.
When it comes to the number of advocacy organizations, Utah has consistently trended below the nation at large during the past decade. In 2020, Utah’s 2.6 advocacy groups per 100,000 people ranked 43rd in the nation.
Across all three measures of civic engagement, Montana appears to be the most consistent strong performer among the Mountain States. Nevada is the most consistent poor performer.
Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard said it appears that mail-in voting boosted voter turnout in Utah, but that Utah’s turnout in 2020 was unremarkable. “The good news is that Utah is a clear leader nationally in public meeting participation,” Reichard said. “And showing up at a meeting is probably a better indicator of civic engagement than filling in a vote-by-mail form on the kitchen counter.”
The Measure of a Citizen: Civic Engagement in Utah is available on the Utah Foundation website at www.utahfoundation.org. Special thanks to the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Lawrence T. & Janet T. Dee Foundation for providing project-based support to the Utah Social Capital Series.