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Half of Utahns approve of the Utah Transit Authority's performance, according to a new survey. That is down from 74 percent in a similar poll last spring.

The new survey for, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, found that 50 percent of Utahns strongly or somewhat approve of the UTA's performance. More than a third (36 percent) disapproved, and 13 percent did not know.

That 50 percent approval may raise the proverbial question of whether the opinion glass is half full or half empty for UTA.

The agency essentially sees it as half full. "It is good to know that many more Utahns have a favorable opinion of UTA than those who don't," said agency spokesman Remi Barron.

But having 50 percent of people satisfied could bode ill for any organization. Such a grade in school might be an F.

And approval may be dropping. Last April, UTA released results of a poll that it paid for that was also conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. It said UTA had a 74 percent approval rating.

"I won't compare one poll to the next as they are conducted at different times and under different circumstances," Barron said. For example, the new survey was statewide, while the older one talked only to people who live in the UTA service area — and questions were worded a bit differently.

But since that last poll in April, UTA has been involved in some controversy.

The agency became a focus of debates over Proposition 1 to raise sales taxes for transit and local roads.

Critics and supporters said Prop 1 probably died in Salt Lake and Utah counties because of UTA controversies, including high wages and bonuses, extensive international travel and, according to state auditors, sweetheart deals for developers. They said if the tax hike were just for local roads, it likely would have passed. Prop 1 did pass in Davis, Weber and Tooele counties, which are part of the transit district.

A controversial trip to Switzerland by two UTA board members, funded in part by UTA contractor donations to a political action committee, also received extensive attention when it became public after the election. The two have since resigned from the board, but say it was for reasons unrelated to the trip.

UTA has even been pulled into the race for governor. Republican Jonathan Johnson, who is challenging Gov. Gary Herbert, has proposed making UTA Board members elected rather than appointed, and ran ads promoting his plan. Herbert has expressed support for appointing elected officials to the UTA Board to increase accountability.

The new poll found that 47 percent of Utahns support electing UTA Board members, 29 percent say they should continue to be appointed, 10 percent favored some other method and 14 percent did not know.

"UTA has not taken a position on questions regarding its governance structure," Barron said. "UTA's focus is to provide excellent transit service to the residents of the Wasatch Front and to be responsible stewards for the resources entrusted to us. We will be doing our best in this coming year to show people they can depend on UTA."

The new survey was conducted from Dec. 8 to 14 and interviewed 622 Utah adults. It has a margin of error of 3.93 percentage points.