When it comes to who wields the most political influence in the state, voters say it’s the legislature, not the governor or the courts. In fact, Utahns say the legislature has more influence than the latter two, combined.

That’s what respondents in the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll said, 51% of whom pointed to the legislature as the state’s most influential body.

By comparison, 36% said the governor, 7% said the state judiciary, 4% said other and 2% said they don’t know.

The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and surveyed 800 registered Utah voters from April 25-28. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.

The results come in the wake of the 2023 Legislative Session, where lawmakers passed 575 bills without a single veto. In several press conferences following the end of the session, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox did say there were roughly 30 bills that initially made his “veto list” but they all either didn’t pass or were substantially altered.

In a closing letter to the legislature, Cox said that there were several bills that he signed that, if he were still a lawmaker, he wouldn’t have voted for — “However, that is not generally the standard for a veto. None of them have risen to the level of me feeling the need to override the will of a majority of legislators,” Cox wrote.

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Matthew Burbank, a University of Utah political science professor, says that sentiment could explain why poll respondents view the legislature as more politically influential.

“There are things that the legislature does that it can do, and sometimes the governor can have some influence on it, but sometimes they just do what they want,” Burbank said Friday.

The legislature has long been viewed by advocates and academics as the most powerful governing body in the state — but Burbank said it was interesting that average voters also share that perspective.

“I think it’s good that people don’t automatically say, ‘oh it’s just the governor, he does everything and nobody else is important’ — or, alternatively, that the state legislature does whatever they want and nobody else has any influence,” he said.

The results show little difference in how registered Democrats or Republicans view the issue — however, when sorted by political ideology, more liberals and moderates say the legislature is most influential, whereas conservatives are relatively split on the issue. Consider this:

  • Very liberal: 52% said the legislature is most influential, compared to 30% who said the governor. About 12% said “other,” the most of any political ideology.
  • Somewhat liberal: 68% said the legislature is most influential, compared to 25% who said the governor, the most agreement found in any group.
  • Moderate: 60% said the legislature is most influential, compared to 30% who said the governor.
  • Somewhat conservative: 44% said the legislature is most influential, compared to 41% who said the governor, the most division of any group.
  • Very conservative: 47% said the legislature is most influential, compared to 42% who said the governor.

In a statement, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said the poll points to Utah’s “history of coming together to tackle challenging issues facing our state and identifying the best policies without regard to who has more influence or power.”

“Our approach continues to pay dividends for all Utahns who recognize the positive impact those elected to represent them are having in their lives,” he said. “Utah was also recently ranked the number one best state overall by U.S. News and World Report and the state with the best economic outlook for the 16th year in a row. Working together combined with prudent, conservative economic tax policies has placed our state in an advantageous position.”

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This sentiment was echoed in a statement provided by Utah House Majority leadership, where they touted the collaboration between the executive and legislative branches.

“Communication between all branches of our State’s government is key. Our lawmakers are committed to representing the voice of the people and upholding the Utah Way through smart legislation, as this historic past session has shown,” the statement reads.