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Poll: More Utahns support the new state flag than oppose it

Some appreciate the ‘updated look,’ and others condemn it for ‘replacing’ history

SHARE Poll: More Utahns support the new state flag than oppose it
Sen. Daniel McCay shows fifth grade students from Academy Park Elementary School the new Utah state flag.

Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, sponsor of SB31, State Flag Amendments, shows fifth grade students from Academy Park Elementary School the new Utah state flag at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 2, 2023.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Among the many changes made in the 2023 legislative session was the first extreme update of the Utah flag. The more modern representation of the Beehive State will become official March 9, 2024, and the original 1903 design will become the state’s “historical” flag.

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll of 801 Utahns found that more are for the new flag than against it. Specifically, 48% supported, 35% opposed and 17% said they didn’t know.

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Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, the bill’s primary sponsor, said he was “ecstatic” about these results.

“For a flag that’s five months old to go through the exhausting public process with so many public submissions and have 48% approval is outstanding,” he said.

The new design was selected in November from 7,000 submissions by the Utah public in an attempt to develop a visual portrayal of the state that was more brandable, like the Texas or California flags.

“Flags are important, and people don’t realize how important they are when their flag isn’t one that they wear on a T-shirt or fly at their home,” McCay said.

Popular indifference to the state flag was perhaps reflected in the fact that only 3% of respondents who display a flag at their home fly the Utah flag.

The senator expects popular support for the flag to increase, considering the quick adoption he’s seen already — Colonial Flag told him it has more than 500 orders.

“I’m seeing it as I drive down the road,” he said. “There are already stores popping up with people selling things that have the new state emblem on it.”

Legislators in Illinois, Minnesota and Pennsylvania are now working on new state flags and referencing Utah’s effort, according to McCay.

The polling results show that those who leaned left on the political spectrum were also more likely to support it than those who leaned right. However, Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, pointed out that lawmakers’ stances were not divided along party lines. Among the legislators on the Utah State Flag Task Force are three Republicans and two Democrats.

The results also show that approval rates decrease as people get older, with 72% of respondents age 57 and older against the new flag and only 31% of those ages 18-24 with the same view.

Some Utahns have expressed concern about the new flag’s impact on tradition. South Jordan resident Jane Seamons believes replacing the original flag invalidates history.

“I think we should honor our ancestors and the people that had to fight for what they had and their opinions,” Seamons said. “And I don’t think destroying that by replacing it is the way to go.”

One group of voters is seeking a referendum to restore the state flag’s original design. The referendum currently has 6,304 signatures, and the Utahns behind it are working toward the 134,298 necessary to put the question on the ballot this November.

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The state flag flutters outside the Capitol in Salt Lake City on the last night of the legislative session, Friday, March 3, 2023.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

On the other hand, Andrew Lewis, a respondent from Provo, appreciates the “more updated look,” saying it does a good job of representing Utah.

McCay believes people began to appreciate the new flag more when they realized how committed lawmakers were to preserving the history of the existing design, which will remain as the state seal and continue to fly beneath the new one.

The poll, conducted March 14-22, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.