Despite national polls suggesting confidence in election officials has waned among American voters in the last several years, Utahns overwhelmingly trusted the 2022 midterm results.
That’s according to the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, which shows 87% of respondents were confident that their state or local government conducted a fair and accurate election.
Specifically, 49% said they were very confident, and an additional 38% said they were confident.
Meanwhile 12% of the voters surveyed said they didn’t have confidence in their election officials — about 8.5% said they were not very confident, and the remaining 3.6% said they had no confidence. Less than 1% had no opinion.
“I don’t know if that number will ever change, unfortunately,” said Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch of the 3.6% of respondents who didn’t trust the process. “... There is always a certain subset that is strongly skeptical of virtually anything the government does.”
Dan Jones & Associates surveyed 802 registered Utah voters from Nov. 18-23. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.
The results track with the last Deseret News poll, conducted in October, where 89% of Utah voters were confident, including 46% who said they were very confident.
For county clerks and the state’s top election official, that consistency is a good sign and points to a lack of procedural hiccups.
“Before the election, there was high confidence that the elections would be run fair, and that people’s votes would count the way they want them to,” said Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson. “And now, after the election, it looks like people are confident that we did a good job.”
Henderson acknowledged “nothing goes perfectly” — for instance, in Iron and Carbon counties, a mix up resulted in thousands of ballots getting lost in the mail, forcing election officials to expand in-person voting.
“There are always bumps in the road,” she said. “The question is, are these bumps that we can overcome? And the clerks did an incredible job.”
Hatch said context is important when looking at the poll results, given national trends that suggest trust in election security is declining, especially along party lines.
“Six years ago, I would have been really disappointed with these numbers ... but given what has happened with all these allegations, and the fact that back in February, the same type of question produced an 81% confidence level, I’m pretty pleased with that. And we’ll get back up into the high 90s, I’m sure,” said Hatch, referring to an earlier Deseret News poll published last winter.
National polls point to a large partisan divide over trust in elections. According to a Politico-Morning Consult poll published a week before the election, 80% of Democrat respondents trusted the federal election system, while 14% did not. Just 44% of Republican voters said they trusted the system, with 53% saying they don’t.
And overall, trust in government is steadily declining, according to the Pew Research Center, which found only 2 in 10 respondents trust the federal government to do what is right “just about always” or “most of the time.”
“I think public trust is always higher when it’s closer to home,” Henderson said. “People trust local government more than they trust state government — they trust state government more than they trust the federal government. And that’s just a matter of proximity. People know that if there’s a problem at a local level, they have a better chance of being fixed. They have a better chance of having their voices heard.”
In the Deseret News poll, registered Republicans did appear slightly more skeptical of election officials than Democrat respondents. Although there was only a five-point difference between the two groups in overall confidence, 46% of Republicans said they were very confident, compared to 69% of Democrats. And 13% of Republicans surveyed didn’t have confidence, opposed to 8% of Democrats.
About 87% of unaffiliated voters had confidence in the last election results compared to 12.5% who didn’t.
“I would love to help persuade every voter in the state of Utah that their vote is secure and that their vote will be counted accurately. So we’re going to strive for that,” said Henderson, who noted her office is trying to make the chain of custody requirements for ballots more uniform while implementing more voter registration audits. With help from the legislature, she also hopes to standardize signature verification and increase training for poll workers.
“We have seen some areas that need to be improved and we have been seizing those and working on those and there’s absolutely more to come,” she said.
Data from the lieutenant governor’s office points to an underwhelming voter turnout this year, with the state average hovering around 64%. Rural turnout was high, with counties Wanye, Grand, Kane and Garfield boasting a voter turnout around 80%.
But Utah’s more populous counties, including Salt Lake, Utah, Davis and Weber, had a turnout between 60% to 65%. The lowest was Tooele County at 59%.