With the 2016 race beginning to heat up, the non-partisan, Salt Lake City-based think tank recently released its findings for this election cycle’s candidates, Part II of the Utah Priorities Project .
Out of the 11 candidates vying for the position, 7 chose to answer the survey questions. Those participating included Republicans Nate Jensen, Jonathan Johnson, and Governor Gary Herbert; Democrats Vaughn Cook and Mike Weinholtz; Independent American Gary Van Horn, and unaffiliated candidate L.S. Brown.
When asked whether the state was “headed in the right direction” or “on the wrong track,” only Herbert and Cook believe the former. According to a poll taken of Utah voters by Dan Jones & Associates, 63 percent believe the state is going in the right direction and 37 percent do not.
When broken down by party affiliation, the numbers change dramatically. A commanding 75 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of Democrats, and 64 percent of independents believe the state is moving the right way. On the other side of the coin, 25 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats, and 36 percent of independents feel the state is headed in the wrong direction.
Republican responses tended to vary depending on their location, race, and ethnicity. 20 percent of Republicans from urban areas (Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, and Weber counties) think that Utah is on the wrong track; that number doubles among rural Republicans. 75 percent of white Republicans feel that the state is headed in the right direction, while less than half of non-white Republicans concur.
Concerning Democratic respondents, there seems to be something of a generation gap. 62 percent of Millennial Democrats believe the state is going in the right direction, while 75 percent of older Dems disagree.
Averaging out all responses received, the top 10 priorities of Utah voters are healthcare, air quality, K-12 education, state taxes & government spending, jobs & the economy, water supply & quality, crime, partisan politics, homelessness & poverty, and the environment. Among the candidates, five of the seven participating (all non-Democratic) gave a ranking of 5 – meaning very concerned – to public lands and state taxes and government spending.
When asked to participate in a section of the survey that would ascertain their political ideology, all respondents participated with the exception of Governor Herbert. In conclusion, both Democrats share the same ideological score as does the median Utah Democratic voter. On the Republican side, the two who participated were more conservative than the median Utah Republican voter.
“With the excitement of the presidential election, voter turnout could be higher than the last presidential election. A higher level of turnout could alter the outcome of the gubernatorial race in surprising ways,” the report concluded.