Fewer than one quarter of Utahns support the current system of changing clocks by an hour every spring and fall, according to a recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, with 71% of respondents saying they support adopting a permanent time year-round.
But Utahns are less decisive when it comes to picking a permanent time, with 41% saying they prefer year-round daylight saving time and 30% opting for year-round standard time. Those content with the current system made up 24% of those polled and 5% said they don’t know.
The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates for the Deseret News and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics April 5-12 of 804 registered voters in Utah. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.
Does daylight saving time matter?
The question was posed in response to an ongoing effort by Congress to make daylight saving time permanent. Currently, Utah observes daylight saving time in the summer, when a later sunrise means more sunlight in the evening. Under standard time — which Utah adopts during the winter — an earlier sunrise translates to more light in the morning.
For Catherine Badger, the early sunrise makes permanent standard time her obvious choice, but she said she gets why night owls or those with strict work schedules might miss that extra hour in the evening.
“I get up early in the morning and go walking with my girlfriends,” the Mapleton resident said. “But, like I said, we’re retired, so that’s different. If we were working, I can really see why it would be discouraging. My husband, he finally gets off work and it’s dark again.”
Badger admits the cultural aspect of the time change would be missed if Utah adopted a permanent time.
“I think this is universal, it’s always fun to have that extra hour, and it’s always a bummer when you lose it,” she said. “So we’d never have the joy of that extra hour, and wouldn’t have the disappointment of missing out on it later.”
Plus, it’s “always pretty funny” to see who shows up to church an hour late because they forgot to adjust their clocks, she added with a laugh.
What Utah lawmakers say
In 2020, then-Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent in the state, but only with Congressional approval and similar to legislation in at least four other Western states. Utah Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, unsuccessfully ran a bill earlier this year that would have made daylight saving time permanent, what he called a plan to “spring forward and stay sprung.”
If Utah did adopt such a plan, the latest sunrise of the year for most of Utah would be between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., according to The Washington Post. In July, most of the Wasatch Front would see the sun rise between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.
According to Jay Pea, founder and president of the nonprofit Save Standard Time, Salt Lake City sees the sun rise after 8 a.m. only eight days every year.
“If you went to permanent daylight time, there’d be 121 days. That’s four months of going to work or school before sunrise,” he said.
Pea knows that the time switching is unpopular and unhealthy, but thinks it’s still a better option than permanent daylight time, which he says is out of step with our natural circadian rhythms. He wasn’t surprised by the poll results, saying surveys regularly find a split between those that favor standard time and those that favor daylight time — although the more popular answer can vary depending on time of year, question phrasing and other factors.
The question of when to set the clocks is a public health issue, Pea said, and not something that should be decided by a “popularity contest.” Messaging campaigns from industries like retailers and golf courses — who prefer more daylight in the evening — combined with a general lack of information about the subject make public sentiment unreliable, he said, and policymakers should consult scientists and doctors before making a drastic change.
“There are some people who genuinely seem to think that daylight saving time laws make days longer in the summer,” Pea said. “But if we were on standard time, it’s not like the sun would go down at five o’clock in July. That’s just physically impossible.”
To change or not to change
Brenda Cairoli, of Roosevelt, said she leans toward permanent daylight saving time, but is adamantly opposed to changing clocks, which she called “totally toxic.” When she was younger, she didn’t mind the time change as much, but now it can take days, or even weeks, for her body to adjust to her new sleep schedule.
Cairoli works as a seamstress, and, like Badger’s husband, she dreads the dark drive home in the winter. Still, she also acknowledges there are pros and cons to both.
“I can understand the others who like to get up when it’s light, and not have their kids at the bus stop when it’s dark,” she said. “They both have good arguments, I think.”
The goodwill between those with different viewpoints is probably not a coincidence, as daylight saving time might be one of the few remaining issues that can transcend typical dividing lines like party affiliation, age and education level.
Utahns of all ages supported permanent daylight saving time at similar rates, although it was the youngest — ages 18-24 — who were most content with the current clock changes, at 36%.
Only 21% of Utahns ages 57 and older support switching back and forth, but Bill Hall doesn’t have any issues with it.
“I like switching back and forth,” said Hall, who also lives in Roosevelt. “That’s kind of silly, but I’ve dealt with it for 60 years, probably, so it’s not a big deal to me. I don’t understand why people are so upset about it.”
Democrats’ support for year-round daylight saving time outpaced Republicans’ by 13 percentage points, but Utahns in both parties were similarly opposed to the biannual time change, with only 17% and 23% in support, respectively.
In general, support for daylight saving time steadily increased among respondents who identified as more liberal, and among those with more education, but support for switching back and forth remained low across the board.