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If state leaders needed any more evidence that moving the prison out of Draper is politically difficult, they just got it.
A new poll, commissioned by UtahPolicy.com, shows that 55 percent of Utah voters oppose moving the prison, while 36 percent favor finding a new place to house the state's inmates.
The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates in the days after the Prison Relocation Commission released a list of six top sites that it wanted to further explore.
Since then community groups have used Facebook to organize and pressure mayors and county commissioners to oppose moving the prison into their areas. Two cities dropped off of the list after the land owners pulled out. The four sites currently under consideration are in Eagle Mountain, Tooele County and two in Salt Lake City, near the airport.
Incoming House Speaker Greg Hughes, who represents Draper and sits on the relocation commission, says the public outcry is a healthy part of the process, but not a reason to abandon an attempt to find a new prison site.
"This is the kind of public input we signed up for and we embrace it," the Republican lawmaker said.
This poll conflicts with one Dan Jones conducted back in March in conjunction with the University of Utah's business school. Conducted by email instead of phone, it found that 46 percent of respondents were OK with moving the prison, while 33 percent opposed it and 21 percent were undecided.
That poll came out shortly after the GOP-controlled Legislature decided to move the prison because it believes the land in Draper is more valuable for economic-development possibilities and doing so would net the state a modern, more efficient prison.
The price tag for doing that is a bit tough to gauge, since the state won't make a plan for the 700 acres in Draper until after a new prison site is located, but an early ballpark estimate is about $450 million.
In the new poll, Dan Jones asked those respondents who wanted to move the prison where they believe it should go. Leading the pack was "somewhere in Tooele County" with 40 percent, followed by "somewhere off the Wasatch Front" with 19.6 percent and "somewhere in an unpopulated part of Utah County" at 19.2 percent.
Leaders on the Prison Relocation Commission say they want to expand the list of finalists and would like to consider additional sites in Tooele County. The one currently on the list is tucked between Tooele City and Grantsville and is opposed by the mayors and county commissioners.
The poll of 609 registered voters statewide took place Dec. 2-10. It has a margin of error of nearly 4 percentage points.