Most Utahns trust state legislators to make the right decisions for them, but they also believe that once in a while lawmakers vote to benefit themselves or special-interest groups, the latest Deseret News/KSL poll shows.

Conflict of interest is always an issue in a part-time, citizen Legislature like Utah's.To get a feeling whether residents think legislators are voting for constituents' issues or their own and special-interest agendas, pollster Dan Jones & Associates asked 605 adults whether they trust their Legislature.

Jones found that 61 percent trust legislators to make the right decisions, but sometimes their decisions help themselves and special interests.

Seventeen percent think legislators vote purely - making the right decisions without concern for helping themselves or special interests.

Nearly a fifth of Utahns, 19 percent, have a poor view of lawmakers. They think legislators rarely make the right decisions, bowing instead to helping themselves and special-interest groups.

One percent volunteered some other opinion of legislators, and 2 percent didn't have an opinion on the question, Jones found.

The Legislature is heavily Republican, and not surprisingly, more Republicans trust lawmakers than do Democrats.

Jones found that 65 percent of respondents who said they're Republicans trust legislators most of the time, while only 49 percent of Democrats do. Thirty-five percent of Democrats think legislators are out to help themselves and special-interest groups. Only 8 percent of Republicans have such a cynical view of lawmakers, Jones found.

Supporting a bill that helps yourself is what is known as a conflict of interest.

Currently, the Legislature has rather weak conflict-of-interest rules and laws. A review of the written conflict-of-interest forms filed by representatives and senators this year shows that while some are very specifically filled out, others are vague to the point of worthlessness.

Several retired members of the House and some homemakers who don't work outside their homes listed no conflicts at all. However, retired legislators likely belong to retirement plans and their incomes could be affected by some proposed state statute. The homemakers are married to men in careers whose incomes could be affect by state laws.



Deseret News/KSL poll

In general, which statement describes your feeling about the Utah Legislature:

I trust the members to make the right decisions most of the time without concern for members helping themselves out of personal concern. 17%

Sometimes I trust them to make right decisions, but sometimes their decisions help themselves and special interests. 61%

Rarely does the Legislature make the right decision for me, but it looks out for itself and special-interest groups. 19%

Other 1%

Don't know 2%

Poll conducted Feb. 14-15, 1995. Margin of error +/-4% on interviews of 605 registered voters. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1995 Deseret News.