Housing affordability and political dysfunction worry Utah voters ahead of the governor’s race

May 03, 2024 (Axios)

As Utahns anticipate the upcoming gubernatorial election, cost of living and political dysfunction are the top issues on voters’ minds, per a new survey released by the Utah Foundation, a nonpartisan policy research organization.

The big picture: Voters ranked 17 of the most pressing concerns they consider when assessing their choices for governor.

  • Housing affordability and politicians not listening to voters nearly tied for the top two, followed by affording non-housing needs, government overreach and partisan politics.

Zoom in: The issues related to political dysfunction “can be summarized as voters being concerned about the political process, individual representation and political power,” researchers noted in the report.

  • Crowded neighborhoods, the Great Salt Lake and transgender rights came in as the three least-pressing issues.

By the numbers: About 60% of the voters surveyed said the state is on the “wrong track,” per the poll. That’s the largest percentage recorded by the Utah Foundation since 2004.

  • The group polled 656 registered Utah voters between Feb. 24–March 24.

What they’re saying: “When we’re talking about housing affordability that is a real issue that affects real Utahns on a daily basis,” Jeff Merchant, executive director of the left-leaning watchdog group Alliance for a Better Utah, told Axios.

  • “That along with things like education, gas prices and the price of food — these are all top issues … and guess what? These aren’t the things that we heard about in the legislative session.”
  • Instead, Merchant noted that lightning-rod issues like DEIrestrictions for transgender Utahns and book banning dominated this year’s session.

Context: Homeownership is becoming less attainable among Utahns, with the median sales price of a home costing $534,000 in March, according to Redfin. That’s 27% higher than the median sales price of a home nationally.

What we’re watching: Gov. Spencer Cox, seeking his second term, and state Rep. Phil Lyman, who has represented the Blanding area since 2019, are vying to win the GOP primary in June.

  • The winner will face off in November against Democratic candidate state Rep. Brian King for the reliably Republican seat.
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