While Utah is doing much better than the nation in the economic and job recovery, how our pocketbooks are faring is still the top issue this election season, a new study by the Utah Foundation finds.
Every election year the foundation conducts an extensive survey of the major issues voters are concerned about.
Thursday the foundation released its findings for 2012.
They are in order of importance:
- Jobs and the economy
- Kindergarten through 12th grade education
- Energy issues
- Taxes and state government
- Higher education
- Environmental issues
- Partisan politics
The top two issues are no surprise.
While Utah is better off than the United States as a whole economically, especially in unemployment, many Utahns are still out of work or under-employed.
And the home foreclosure rates are still high in the state.
Education is usually the No. 1 state issue here, as classroom sizes continue to be high and Utah spends less per student than any other state in the nation.
You can read the whole report here.
One of the interesting parts of the foundation’s work is its comparison of top election issues over time. You can see the comparisons since 2004 here.
Of interest is that immigration has dropped well down in the list this year.
Back in 2008, 44 percent of those polled by Dan Jones & Associates said immigration was “very important” to them.
In 2012 that is just 32 percent.
The 2001 Legislature passed a package of illegal-immigration bills, including the controversial HB116, a guest worker program.
Repealing HB116 was a top priority for some Utah conservatives. And the state GOP convention, as well as a few county GOP conventions, voted in favor of repealing the new law.
But the 2012 Legislature, lead by their GOP caucuses, refused to even take up repeal of HB116 and several other immigration bills.
At least on the immigration front, the GOP bosses seemed to be correct in their political leanings, the foundation report shows.
Still, politics is still local. And you can expect that immigration will play a greater role in some campaigns than others.
For example, in the new 4th Congressional District several of the leading GOP candidates are current or former members of the Utah House that lead out on immigration issues. So that intra-party battle may deal with that issue more.
Same in the U.S. Senate race, where Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, was a leader on immigration issues. He may want to take out after U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, over the fact that for years Congress has refused to substantially address illegal immigration.
In general, the foundation found, Utahns are feeling better about the direction their state is heading than over the last four years.
But they still are not as confident as they were back in 2004.
That’s understandable, as Utah, like other states, were racked by the Great Recession in 2008, with the recovery still shaky in 2010.
With the record number of Utahns attending both the Democratic and Republican party caucuses last week, with Mitt Romney (who has a number of ties to Utah) leading the GOP presidential nomination race, and with a general interest in presidential politics this year, Utah could well be on its way to having a higher number of residents voting than anytime in the last 20 years.
At least that is the hope of political and civic leaders.
The Utah Foundation report is a blueprint for what candidates and citizens can expect in the upcoming campaigns.