Poll: Utahns Divided on Common Ground

A recent Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows that Utahns are almost evenly divided on legislators’ handling of Equality Utah’s Common Ground Initiative during this year’s session.

The Deseret News reported on the poll on March 27. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, a Utah-based firm specializing in market and public opinion research, the poll surveyed 400 Utahns. Of this group, 48 percent opposed the legislature’s striking down of three gay rights bills in Equality Utah’s plan, while 45 percent approved.

Additionally, 33 percent of Utahns surveyed gave legislators an A grade for their handling of the bills, and 18 percent gave them a B. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed flunked legislators.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus five percent.

The Common Ground legislation included bills targeting fair workplace and housing laws for gay and transgender Utahns; the right for unmarried partners to bring wrongful death suits; and the ability for unmarried partners to create contracts giving them inheritance and medical decision powers. All four failed to reach the Senate and House floors for debate during the 2009 session. A fourth bill, which would have struck a controversial clause from Utah’s gay marriage ban prohibiting the recognition of “marriage-like” relationships, was withdrawn by its sponsor.

Testimony against each bill included objections that each would put Utah on a “slippery slope” to legalizing gay marriage.

Equality Utah’s Manager of Public Policy Will Carlson told the Deseret News that the gay rights group could have better countered this charge by “providing legislators with accurate information.”

“We tried to make it clear that Utah has already amended its constitution (and banned gay marriage). We could have done a better job communicating that,” he said.

In January, three polls—conducted by the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune and Equality Utah—showed that a majority of Utahns supported certain rights for gay and transgender people, including fair housing and employment laws, hospital visitation rights and inheritance rights.

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