The percentage of Utahns who vote in presidential and congressional elections has slipped steadily during the past 20 years, according to a recent survey by local researchers.
Figures prepared by the Utah Foundation show that Utah led the nation in the percentage of voters who cast ballots in the 1964 and 1968 presidential elections. The Beehive State also ranked first in the percentage who voted for representatives to the U.S. House in six different elections during the 1960s and '70s.But the declining percentage of eligible voters casting ballots dropped Utah to sixth place in the 1980 presidential election, with 64.6 percent turnout, and then to ninth place in the '84 race, with a 61.6 percent showing. A similar slide has occurred in balloting for U.S. representatives during the 1980s, with the percentage of participants dropping from fifth in 1980 to 16th in 1986.
The study suggests two reasons for the declining participation a younger pool of potential voters and the push nationally to increase minority participation.
Since 1972, 18-year-olds have been eligible to vote. Yet in 1984, the study shows only 36.7 percent of Utahns from ages 18 to 20 cast ballots in the presidential election, compared with 69 percent of voters age 45 and older.
Because Utah has a much higher percentage of younger voters than the national average, participation rates here have been more heavily affected.
Utah also has a lower proportion of minority residents than most other states, so the national upswing in minority participation hasn't impacted Utah as dramatically as other areas.