Survey: Utah voters say state is on the wrong track heading into elections

April 30, 2024 (KSL)

SALT LAKE CITY — More than 60% of Utahns believe the state is on the wrong track and quality of life is worse now than it was five years ago, according to a new survey from the Utah Foundation.

The survey is part of the foundation’s Utah Policy Project, which has occurred each gubernatorial election year since 2004. The report released Tuesday shows the results of having voters prioritize and rank 17 issues when considering their preferred candidate for governor.

“For the first time, the majority of Utah voters say that we’ve had a bad five years and things are heading in the wrong direction,” said Shawn Teigen, president of the Utah Foundation. “They are truly fed up.”

Top 5 voter issues

Housing affordability ranked No. 1 as the top concern among voters and earning enough to pay for non-housing needs landing in third place.

“Housing affordability is really difficult. If you look at the ratio of home prices to median household income, should be about 3 to 1; right now in Utah (it’s) 6 to 1. And so you know, that there’s kind of this perfect storm of housing struggles in the state of Utah,” said Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, on the report’s release.

“It’s really tough to find solutions to this housing affordability issue, but what we’re seeing is a change in this calculation between homeownership and renting,” he continued.

On the government side, politicians listening to voters came second, with government overreach and partisan politics coming in fourth and fifth place.

“We really saw an example of this dysfunction on Saturday at the Republican state convention, where, you know, two of our top elected leaders in the state — the governor and a congressperson — failed to get the party nomination,” said Spendlove. “I can say this as a soon-to-be former politician, it is one of the struggles that politicians have, is knowing who to listen to and how to listen to them.”

New concerns appeared in this year’s report, like government overreach. The issue was included due to responses from the open-ended preliminary survey, according to the Utah Foundation. Some of the responses were very specific, such as licensing and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, while most were more general, such as:

  • Federal government overreach
  • Utah state government overreach
  • Legislators’ overreach
  • Managing bureaucracy
  • Allowing businesses to grow without government interference.

Secondary priorities included education and environmental concerns.

Other key findings

The report found that 62% of Utah voters said they think the state is on the “wrong track,” while 38% reported that the state is “headed in the right direction.” The proportion of voters indicating that Utah was headed the wrong way is the highest level since the Utah Priorities Project series began 20 years ago, according to the Utah Foundation.

Similarly, most Utah voters indicate quality of life is worse than it was five years ago, with 16% of voters saying it is “much worse.” “This is perhaps surprising since this includes those respondents surveyed during the pandemic in July 2020,” the report stated.

“One of the things that’s always been unique about Utah is people always feel better about our state than the nation. They will always feel better about the use of our economy than the nation,” said Spendlove. “But there is this growing disenfranchisement politically and with the economy. I think, in a lot of ways, it goes back to that top issue of housing affordability and those big issues of overall affordability. People just don’t feel like they have the opportunities that they’ve had in the past and they’re struggling to adjust to this new normal.”

The report also breaks down the difference in priorities by different demographics ranging from age, gender, race and ethnicity, religion and political affiliation. Surveyors found that voter priorities lists by political affiliation were far different than any other voter subgroups with the most apparent difference being in Democrats’ ranking abortion and women’s rights as the top issue.

  View Article

Referenced Reports