Repeal of Food Sales Tax is Popular, but Concerns about Repercussions on Education Spending make a Negative Impact
PHOENIX (April 12, 2023)- Shortly after Utah’s Legislative Session came to a close, O.H. Predictive Insights (OHPI) polled Utah voters to discover their opinions on State Legislature – specifically asking voters their opinions on the proposed measure which would end all state-level sales tax on grocery items. In the second of four quarterly surveys in 2023, OHPI’s Utah Public Opinion Pulse (UTPOP) found that a majority of voters would support the repeal of food sales tax, but a meaningful share of support was lost when respondents were presented with details of the bill (H.B. 101).
This UTPOP was conducted from March 14th – March 23rd, 2023. The survey sample was 600 Utah registered voters with a margin of error of +/-4.0%.
Setting the Stage – Utah Political Climate
Overall, 60% of Utah voters say the state is headed in the right direction. This sentiment is heavily driven by Republicans (71%), rural voters (73%), and those who say education is the top issue facing the state (72%). When asked their opinion on the Utah State Legislature, a slim majority (51%) of voters have a favorable view, largely driven by Republicans (64%). Governor Cox is favored by 57% of Utah voters, once again largely driven by Republicans (68%).
Unaided Support for H.B. 101
Utah voters were asked a high-level question gauging their support for a proposed measure being considered by the Utah Legislature which would end all state-level sales tax on grocery items. With no additional context given, 8 in 10 voters were in support of this measure. The measure earned bipartisan support from a statistically equal share of Republicans (80%), Democrats (78%), and Independents (76%).
“Legislators have the political capital to get this bill passed,” said Mike Noble, OHPI Chief of Research. “The political climate in Utah is good, and enough voters are in support of the measure. It’s in good standing right now.”
Aided Support for H.B. 101
With more details of H.B. 101 provided, a safe majority of Utah voters remained in support of the measure, but overall support significantly dropped by 22 points.
The question including details of the proposed measure was phrased as follows:
“The Utah State Constitution restricts the allocation of state income taxes to certain departments (Education, Children’s Social Services, etc.). The Legislature is considering an amendment that would remove such restrictions, provided that the initial expenditures are covered. As a result, the Legislature would end all state-level sales taxes on grocery items. Knowing what you know now, would you support this amendment?”
Support dropped by double-digits among the key demographics driving initial support for the measure when they were presented with additional information. This key insight is likely to mean that, while the repeal of food sales tax is extremely popular, the details of the constitutional amendment were a deterring factor for Utah voters.
Given that the parameters of the bill outlined for respondents explain that the amendment to the State Constitution would remove the requirement that revenue from income tax is spent on public education (provided that the initial expenditures are covered), it doesn’t come as a surprise that voters who say Utah’s top issue is education drastically dropped in their support for the bill by more than 25 points once informed.
“There is an opportunity to get ahead on messaging to appeal to those voters who are most concerned with education in Utah by reinforcing that other tax dollars will still be spent on public education in the state,” said Mike Noble. “Inspiring confidence that their top issue will not go unaddressed with the passing of this bill will help bolster support from this key group.”
Methodology: This poll was conducted as an online opt-in panel survey. The survey was completed by O.H. Predictive Insights from March 14th – March 23rd, 2023 from a Utah Statewide Registered Voter sample. The sample demographics were weighted to accurately reflect gender, region, age, party affiliation, ethnicity, and education. The sample size was 600 completed surveys, with a MoE of ± 4.0%. Among the 600 voters surveyed, 302 were Utah Registered Republicans, yielding a MoE of +/- 5.64% with this group. Numbers may not equal 100% due to rounding.
About O.H. Predictive Insights: As a nonpartisan public opinion polling, market research, and data analytics firm, O.H. Predictive Insights exists to elevate the world around us by empowering leaders and decision-makers with digestible data and actionable insights that translate to data-based solutions. We bridge the gap between research and strategy with customized strategic research, a hyper-focus on impact, and being true partners with our clients. O.H. Predictive Insights is a 2023 Inc. 5000 fastest-growing company in the Southwest region, and is ranked in the top 15 most accurate pollsters as well as in the top 5 for lowest average bias in the 2021-22 election cycle by FiveThirtyEight. For more information, please call (602) 362-5694 or visit our website at www.ohpredictive.com.
About the UTPOP: The Utah Public Opinion Pulse (UTPOP) survey is a statewide survey of a base sample of 600 – 800 general population state residents (18+ YO) with a statistically significant sample size of registered and likely voters included. Deploying surveys on a quarterly basis, we are able to gauge and keep an accurate and consistent pulse on the perceptions, opinions, and future decisions of state residents on a number of relevant issues and pressing topics for corporate and political insights. With statewide Public Opinion Pulses also conducted in Nevada and Arizona in addition to Utah, our surveys allow data-seekers to look through the 3 unique lenses of general population residents, registered voters, and likely voters in each state for insights most relevant to them. To learn more about our statewide public opinion surveys and for information on how to purchase customized questions to add to our surveys, click here.