Congressmen should live in district they represent, poll shows
Tom Smart, Deseret News archives
SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Jason Chaffetz has done it for two terms without repercussions. But a new poll shows residents in one Utah congressional district prefer their representative live within its boundaries, even though a vast majority of them don't know in which district they reside.
A Deseret News/KSL poll found 71 percent of registered voters in the state's new 4th Congressional District believe a member of the U.S. House should live in the district he or she represents. Only 20 percent believe the representative should not live in the district, while 6 percent said it doesn't matter.
The poll further showed those who consider themselves moderates were less concerned about residency than liberal and conservative voters.
Two 4th District candidates — Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson and Republican state representative Stephen Sandstrom — live outside their boundaries. Matheson, who currently represents the 2nd District, said he doesn't plan to move. Sandstrom said he intends to move after the 2012 Legislature adjourns in March.
Utah lawmakers redrew congressional boundaries this fall to reflect the 2010 census, which gave the state a fourth seat in the U.S. House. The new district covers southwestern Salt Lake County, western Utah County and Juab and Sanpete counties.
The survey found a whopping 81 percent of respondents don't know which district they were drawn into. Only 11 percent know they are in the 4th District, and 8 percent said they are in another district.
Kirk Jowers, executive director of the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics, said he thinks Chaffetz has mostly muted any complaints against him. The Republican congressman represents the 3rd District but lives in the 2nd District. Redistricting, however, placed him the 3rd District starting with the 2012 election.
But residency could make a difference to 4th District voters, the polls shows. And pollster Dan Jones said it could hurt the candidates — Sandstrom more than Matheson — if someone wants to play that card.
Dan Jones & Associates found 35 percent of voters in the 4th District were less likely to vote for Sandstrom if he lived outside the district, while 25 percent were less likely to vote for Matheson if that were the case.
The poll also found 42 percent of residents would vote for Matheson regardless of where he lives. For Sandstrom that figure is 23 percent.
Jones surveyed 341 registered voters in the 4th District on Dec. 19-21. The poll has a plus or minus 5 percent error margin.
Sandstrom said where he lives won't be an issue because he plans to move, though he won't initially sell his Orem home. He said he might rent his current house while living in another home in the 4th District.
Matheson said he doesn't let geographical boundaries define him or what's he done in Congress. Early in his career, his district included southwestern Salt Lake County. Voters, he said, know he is an independent voice and feel good about his representation.
Even though Jones said an issue could be made of where candidates live, in the end it might not matter to voters.
"A lot of times that opinion doesn't lead to behavior," he said, "Issues become more important than where they live."
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