This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Monday's poll released in The Salt Lake Tribune about Utah's liquor laws misses the point. The poll specifically asked whether newly licensed restaurants should have a "Zion Curtain" to hide the preparation of alcoholic drinks. The truth is, Utah voters just don't care that much about liquor laws. In Utah Foundation's Utah Priorities Project Survey, we asked over 800 Utah voters to rate their top priorities. Out of 21 policies, liquor laws came in dead last. It also came in dead last (of 18) in the previous election cycle in 2012.
Now it is easy to just brush off liquor coming in last place as a factor of 60 percent of Utahns identifying with a religion that prohibits its use, but that would be incorrect. Concern for liquor laws comes in last place even for Utahns who don't identify with any religion. The highest position it came in for any breakout group analyzed was 18th for Democrats.
To be sure, there are people who care more about liquor laws than others. I am sure it is no surprise that those who identify with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tend to care less than those who don't.
However, one difference was slightly surprising, Utah voters with a high school degree or less tend to report a much higher level of concern when compared to Utahns with a college degree (among both those who identify as LDS and those who don't). The reason this is surprising is that according to a national Gallup Poll in 2015, those with a college degree are much more likely to consume liquor than Americans with a high school degree or less. This higher level of concern among Utah voters with a high school diploma or less could be due to Utah's liquor laws being more inconvenient for them than their neighbors with higher educational attainment.
Alternatively, Utah voters with a lower educational attainment might also think liquor laws don't go far enough. But again, such details tend to miss the point. Even among the non-religious and those with a lower educational attainment, concern for liquor laws is still dead last.
There are certainly those upon whom Utah's liquor laws have a more targeted effect, such as the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association, which represents small eateries, or the Utah Hospitality Association, which represents bars and restaurants. For the business owners and managers that these associations represent, liquor laws might reduce sales, impose costly regulations and prevent efficient management. But Utah voters just have a lot more important things on their minds 20 of them in fact.
Now no one is saying that Utah does not have some liquor laws that many consider absolutely ridiculous, especially by those who work in the industry. However, when prioritizing the ease of getting your booze against whether the state has enough clean water, whether you can find a job or the cost of your healthcare, booze tends to get left for last.
If you are interested in what Utahns do care about, you can read much more at utahpriorities.org
Christopher Collard is a research analyst with Utah Foundation, an independent, non-partisan public policy research group based in Salt Lake City