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Veteran pollsters Dan and Pat Jones will be honored Tuesday as recipients of the first Insight Award from the Utah Foundation, a nonprofit research organization based in Salt Lake City.
The pair's work "has led generations of Utahns to a better understanding of their community," the Foundation said in a press release for its 70th anniversary gala Tuesday at Grand America Hotel. The event is sold out.
In addition to the pair's polling on politics and public policy, Dan Jones is being recognized for decades of teaching and mentoring students at Utah State University and, since 1980, at the University of Utah. He taught his last class in 2013.
Pat Jones is being singled out for her 14 years in the Utah Legislature, most recently in the state Senate. She left her seat in 2014 and earlier this year took on a new role as CEO of the Women's Leadership Institute, which encourages more women to take leading roles in business and government.
The pair's company, Dan Jones & Associates, is without question the most widely known and prolific pollster in Utah politics.
Dan Jones conducted his first public-opinion survey in 1959 in the Salt Lake City mayoral contest between J. Bracken Lee and Bruce Jenkins. Jones, then a graduate student at the U. of U. said he took on the task at the request of U. Political Science Department Chairman Roy Peel, who didn't care for Lee and was pulling for Jenkins, his top student.
Lee, a former two-term Utah governor, defeated Jenkins, who went on to be a state senator and federal judge.
Asked if he nailed the election poll, Jones said Monday, "I must have done OK because they asked me to go on."
Dan Jones has done polling for every Utah governor going back to Cal Rampton, who won the first of his three terms in 1964.
He started his own firm in 1980, selling it in 2010 to the Cicero Group. But Jones continues to do political polling under the Dan Jones & Associates name for UtahPolicy, an online political news site and an Idaho counterpart, Idaho Politics Weekly.
Jones sees no end to his career of choice.
"I wouldn't be good at retirement," said the 81-year-old Ogden native.
Besides, there's a little spice in the current election cycle's presidential race. "I guess you'd have to say Donald Trump has made it a little more bizarre than other years," he observed.
While it's not as easy as it once was to get up and go to the office, Jones still does it every day and then finds it's hard to go home.
"I very seldom leave the office before 6 or 6:30 [p.m.]," he said. "But when you're getting data and it's coming in, it's exciting. You don't look at the clock."