This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A new poll suggests that most Utahns would rather not return to the just-replaced caucus-convention system for selecting party nominees even though the Utah Republican Party has filed a lawsuit that seeks that.
A poll for UtahPolicy.com by Dan Jones & Associates asked voters what they would prefer among three possible systems.
Returning to the old caucus-convention system was favored by only 14 percent.
Keeping a new, yet-to-be-used system that allows candidates to qualify for the ballot either through conventions or by collecting enough signatures was favored by 36 percent. It was created by passage of SB54 last year, but the GOP is suing, contending it interferes with its right to choose nominees.
Converting to a direct primary which would include anyone who wants to run was favored by 43 percent. Such a system was proposed by the Count My Voter ballot initiative. Its supporters halted work when SB54 was passed as a compromise.
Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans discounted the poll, and asserted it is biased because UtahPolicy.com owner LaVarr Webb was involved in advising and promoting the Count My Vote initiative. He said GOP polls show different numbers.
"I view that as a name-recognition poll," Evans said. "A primary is something that generally all voters understand. SB54 is getting a lot of press. The caucus system is a little harder to explain.... I'm not surprised at the results."
In the caucus system, convention delegates were elected at neighborhood-caucus meetings. If candidates received 60 percent of convention delegate votes, they proceeded directly to the general election. Otherwise, the top two faced off in a primary.
Count My Vote supporters contended the caucus system could be controlled by small numbers of people, and tended to select candidates who are more extreme than most Utahns. Evans says direct primaries and SB54 favor wealthy candidates.
"We're convinced that when everything is understood, the result will be far different than what Count My Vote is trying to engineer" with the poll, Evans said, adding he feels that UtahPolicy.com and Count My Vote are essentially the same.
"We don't have a newspaper that we can just write headlines like Count My Vote does with UtahPolicy," Evans said, adding he thinks the results are biased.
Bryan Schott, managing editor of UtahPolicy.com, said, "We categorically deny his allegations," and said the poll was designed by professionals with no political agenda for the political news website.
He said Utah State University professors wrote the poll questions. "I find it interesting that people always scream bias when a poll does not fit their chosen narrative." He said several polls have found similar results.
A GOP poll released earlier this month said 67 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of all voters support the party's lawsuit challenging SB54. It also said just 40 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of all Utahns support SB54.
Evans said that GOP poll was designed by a professional company without fee, but the party did not have permission to identify it because the company did not conduct the actual calls.
The party used a company called CallAssistant to do that.
The UtahPolicy.com poll of 715 registered voters was conducted from Dec. 22 to Jan. 10, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.66 percent.