What’s In a Poll: Do Utah voters really want a municipal tax hike?

How you do a poll makes all the difference in whether you can trust it. Because UtahPolicy.com’s latest poll draws from a statewide respondent pool instead of from local municipalities to gauge support for a municipal tax increase, local officials should be slow to rely too heavily on the favorable numbers.

Using a poll by Dan Jones and Associates, the UtahPolicy.com headline says that “Utahns Favor Sales Tax Hike to Pay for Transportation.” According to the poll, “58 percent of Utahns said they favor such a tax increase, 41 percent oppose and 6 percent didn’t know[,]” says Bob Bernick.

But do voters really support a tax hike?

The authority given by HB 362 doesn’t grant the right to ask voters for a tax hike to a statewide body, but to cities and counties. As such, it doesn’t accurately reflect the differences between the many municipalities across Utah.

And that’s the major problem with the UtahPolicy.com poll. It draws from from a statewide group of respondents (registered voters), but the tax increase will be based on city- and county-wide voting districts. Bob Bernick, writing for UtahPolicy.com, clues into this, too: “this is a poll statewide of registered voters. And there certainly could be different feelings within a specific city or county.”

Could be? I suspect that the “different feelings” between the municipalities are more than just a possibility.

Spanish Fork is going vote much differently than Salt Lake City, and Ogden is going to come in with different results than Hurricane. Because the UtahPolicy.com post doesn’t show where respondents live or work, we don’t know anything about how voters in each city will respond. For all we know, they could be disproportionately from the Wasatch Front. Or not.

But the poll doesn’t show. That’s actually a big deal when polling a local issue, especially one like this, where city and county councils are considering whether to ask voters to approve a tax increase.

There may be support for a tax increase to fix roads, but this poll doesn’t show where the support is at, and that’s information crucial to local elected officials. Rather than taking comfort in “being ahead,” city and county council members would be wiser to poll their own constituents before moving forward with budgets that reflect a potential tax increase their own voters may not support.

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