The Utah Priorities Survey: Top issues in 2010 and 2012

The list of top ten issues Utah voters are most concerned with was mostly filled with themes we’ve seen throughout the last few elections

This is a guest post by Morgan Lyon Cotti, Senior Research Analyst at the Utah Foundation.

Last week Adam Brown wrote a post about the Tea Party’s declining favorability, and cited polling data showing that unfavorable views of the Tea Party have increased considerably since 2010. This is also reflected in recent survey’s Utah Foundation has completed as well.

In each gubernatorial election year, Utah Foundation holds its Utah Priorities Project. which begins with a survey of voters to assess which issues are most important in the upcoming election, and how they feel about Utah’s economy, society and politics. The 2012 Utah Priorities Survey began by asking a sample of 400 people two open-ended questions: 1) What would you say is the greatest issues facing Utah? and 2) What is the next greatest issue? The answers from the open-ended survey were analyzed and grouped into 19 major topic areas, from which a larger survey was created and administered to 804 respondents statewide from February 15-22, 2012. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.5% and the data are weighted by congressional district.

During this election year, the list of top ten issues Utah voters are most concerned with was mostly filled with themes we’ve seen throughout the last few elections, like jobs and the economy, K-12 education, energy issues, healthcare, and taxes and state government spending. There are some issues that were priorities in 2010, like states’ rights and ethics of elected officials that dropped in significance. Lack of concern over ethics is surely because there were no notable scandals during this year’s legislative session. However, the issue over states’ rights tells a different story. (Bold face indicates items added to the top top ten in 2012; italics indicates items that fell from the top ten since 2010.)

Utah Priorities Survey
Top Issues in 2010 Top Issues in 2012
1 Jobs and the economy Jobs and the economy
2 Government spending K-12 education
3 K-12 education Energy issues
4 Healthcare Healthcare
5 Ethics of elected officials Taxes and state government spending
6 Taxes Higher education
7 Energy issues Environmental issues
8 States’ rights Partisan politics
9 Environmental issues Poverty
10 Immigration Immigration

In 2010, the Tea Party was seen as much more favorable, and was influential in shaping public discourse and opinion. As such, the issue of states’ rights was one of the top priorities of Utah voters that year, and the top issue for registered Republicans and Republican delegates. In addition, Republican delegates also listed protecting gun rights and allowing mining and grazing on federal lands as top issues. These issues have fallen considerably since then. In 2012, protecting states rights ranked 15th (out of 19 issues) for all voters and 7th for Republicans. And though Republican law makers and gubernatorial candidates have focused on access to public lands the last few months, we’ve seen this dialogue has not made it a priority for voters, who ranked it 17th, or even Republican voters, who ranked it 13th.

Another interesting note, one of the issues that made the top ten list this year for the first time is partisan politics. This may signal that in addition to not prioritizing some of those issues that were pushed by partisan forces in 2010, voters see the actual conflict created by partisan politics as problematic.

To learn more about the Utah Priorities Project and voter survey visit:

To learn more about the gubernatorial candidate survey visit:

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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