Utah needs to re-evaluate its political processes and revive its political parties, says Dan Jones, a prominent Utah pollster.
"I don't know of a more bizarre year since I have been involved with political polling," said Jones of the 1990 elections. "1990 was the year of the grotesque."Jones told a gathering of the Utah Policy Forum that he has taken a lot of heat over poll projections that failed to detect voters swings that resulted in a stunning upset in the 3rd Congressional District race and mild upsets in Salt Lake County commission and sheriff's contests. And at least one failed candidate for Congress has blamed his loss directly on the Jones polls.
But Jones puts much of the blame on a system that allows crossover voting in primaries and the growing economic power of political action committees that now control access to needed campaign money.
And at least in Salt Lake County, the election results were largely due to the failure of Republicans to go to the polls to re-elect incumbents while Democrats were going out in record numbers to "throw the rascals out."
In addition, an extraordinary number of independent voters told exit pollsters that they did not make up their minds until they entered the voting booth and that anger towards incumbents, especially over tax issues, affected their vote.
Jones said the drop-off in Republican voting was the greatest nationwide since the Watergate affair in 1974.
"It was a case of Republicans not feeling good enough (about their candidates) to re-elect and Democrats being mad enough to throw the rascals out," Jones said.
Jones said the sales tax initiative failed largely because voters feared it would hurt education, the issue that remains uppermost in importance in Utah. And despite a party endorsement to remove the sales tax on food, Democrats voted against the initiative.
Issues expected to weigh heavily on the minds of voters in the 1990s include property tax reform, legislative reapportionment, abortion, creation of a state department of environmental quality, child abuse, Salt Palace renovation and water, Jones said.