Americans dislike Utah, which hurts Romney

Could Utah’s reputation be hurting Mitt Romney?

Each year, the Utah office of Tourism spends millions in advertising to bolster the state’s image and lure people here on visits. Last year, its budget was cut to about $7 million, a sign of hard times in state budgets, but officials say tourism still accounted for $842 million in state and local tax revenues in 2011.

That’s no small amount in a state with a lot of natural beauty to offer. And yet most Americans apparently hate the place.

Public Policy Polling just published results of a survey conducted over four months, beginning last October. People were asked to provide their general impressions of each of the 50 states. (Read the poll here.)

Given what I’ve observed about people from traveling this nation, a lot of them have no clue about a lot of states (quick, what’s your impression of North Dakota? Delaware?). So it’s no surprise that the overwhelming majority of the states ended up with mostly favorable ratings in this poll. Absent a reason to feel negatively, most people probably default to positive impressions.

Only five states were found to have higher negative ratings than positive. Utah was one of them, with 24 percent expressing favorable impressions and 27 percent negative.

The interesting thing is that other Mountain West states were among the most favorably rated in the nation. Colorado finished second, and Idaho also had strong positives. California came in dead last, but the split there was sharply divided among Republicans and Democrats — there’s no extra credit for guessing which party dislikes it the most.

But Utah scored low even when the results were broken down by political views. Republicans like the state by a small margin, while Democrats dislike it by a large margin. But while it might not be a surprise that the very liberal dislike Utah, the very conservative feel mostly the same way.

It’s easy to make too much of a poll like this, which has heavy political undertones, but the results can be instructive in a political sense.

John Hinderbaker at Powerlineblog.com says the poll might lend understanding into why Mitt Romney is struggling.

“I can’t think of any reason (for Utah’s high negatives) other than anti-Mormon bias. This is borne out by the fact that liberals and Democrats, who are most prone to ethnic and religious bigotry, are the ones who actively dislike Utah,” he wrote. “…One wonders whether these numbers explain some of the dynamics of the current GOP primary season, and whether they suggest a lingering anti-LDS prejudice that could be a problem for Mitt Romney, if he is the Republican nominee, in November.”

Anti-Mormon prejudice is the often-ignored elephant in corner of the elephant party’s nominating circus, so Utah’s bad showing may indeed be affecting the former Massachusetts governor.

Meanwhile, the Legislature may want to think about increasing that tourism budget.

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Categories: Campaign 2012
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About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

27 comments

    • Drew,
      Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve fixed the link now. It should take you to the Public Policy Polling site’s story on that poll. At the top, you should be able to click to a copy of the poll itself.
      Sorry I didn’t get it right the first time.
      -Jay

  1. RanchHand

    “Each year, the Utah office of Tourism spends millions in advertising to bolster the state’s image and lure people here on visits.+

    … And each year, Utah’s legislature does something more ridiculous than the last which negatively affects Tourists and their impressions of utah.

  2. bublnet

    If you add the GOP voters who said they won’t vote Romney solely because he is a Mormon (23%) Romney would be running away with this election. Romney is fighting Democrats and bigots.

  3. Richard Baggett

    I’ve traveled extensively through out my adult life.

    I have found it isn’t the beautiful scenary, but the intolerance of the folks who live here that makes such a bad, repressive reputation through out the rest of the nation/world.

    I’m a middle aged, active Mormon, white guy, born and raised here — and still don’t fit it.
    Simply because I’m NOT a Republican.

    I can’t begin to imagine how a young, black/hispanic/Asian,
    Catholic/Muslim,
    legal or illegal
    immigrant must feel living here.

    Heaven help them if they are registered Democrat!

    Utah is the most Southern State in the West. [not my words, theirs]

    Sad – The Pioneer’s ancestors have become the very intolerant Mobs-types they left behind in Missouri.

    The only thing lacking, is an extermination order — but some members of the State Legislature is working hard and getting one of those too.

  4. I understand that this is an opinion piece. However, as this is an opinion piece written by the Associate Editor of the Deseret News’ editorial page, I wish that Mr. Hinderbacker’s blatantly wrong and inflammatory quote about Democrats and anti-Mormon bias was balanced by something that was actually factual. Democrats are THE party for the ethnic and religious minority. Democrats are the party that stands up for civil rights, protects liberties, and the democrats in Utah’s legislature seem to often be the only members of our legislature who support the constitutional right to the separation of church and state which protects religion as much as it protects the state.

    I am an LDS Democrat and a fairly new resident of Utah. As I’ve lived across the country in various places, I’ve found that low views of Utah and Mormons tends to arrive not from an active anti-mormon bias but from two sources: 1) lack of familiarity with Latter-day Saints and our doctrine or 2) they are familiar with Mormons and Mormonism, but have felt the victim of prejudice and judgment on the part of a Mormon who didn’t like how that person lived differently than they do. It is largely the burden of my fellow Latter-day Saints to change the world’s perception of us by changing how we treat them. We may think that we are simply defending the family or protecting our children’s standards when we encourage them to be surrounded by those with similar standards, but the reality is that we are making outcasts of those who believe and act differently than we do. When a Mormon talks negatively about “the world,” or bemoans another’s “sinful” actions, we are telling the world to return our prejudice with their prejudice. We are not to judge. Christ spent his ministry being among the outcast. We ought to think about who are the outcasts in Utah and treat them better.

  5. Clint

    I wonder if the “polls” reflect jealousy towards Utahns?

    I ski and spend a lot of time in National Parks and I’ve NEVER heard anyone disparaging Utah.
    Everyone I talk to love it.

    Outsiders probably don’t have too bad of a reputation of Utah if they spend almost 900 million a year here.

  6. Michele Yerby

    I found out first hand why people do not like Utah. We moved to Bountiful from S. California the easter before 9/11. We moved to Utah for a job and chose our house on the bench of Bountiful for its amazing view and lovely neighborhood. We had a LDS realtor and he said nothing to us about it being a potential problem to be catholic and moving to Bountiful. Wow, what an expensive mistake that was! We had hate mail put in our mail box telling us we were going to hell because we were not LDS. I planned two parties where EVERYONE rsvp’s they were coming and one by one called after the party was to start to say they could not come. No children were allowed to attend my kids parties because we had alcohol in our home. Needless to say, we decided that Park City was a better fit for our family than Bountiful and decided to build a house there. Just before moving, I was approached by a neighbor in Bountiful and who said, “You must hate your children to move them to the land of Satan.” This my friends, is why people do not like Utah!

    • LDS Liberal

      Agreed!

      Sorry your experience was oh, sooooo typical.

      And as an active member of the LDS church, all I can say is:
      This my friends, is why people do not like Utah!

      Trust me – membership doesn’t change the attitude either.
      It’s a “Utah” Mormon thing – cultural, not a Mormon thing – strange at it may seem, there is a difference.

    • Sara Keiser

      Sorry you had such a bad experience because I have had a similar experience when I moved into my new home, but it was because I was a Mormon. Neighbor children were not allowed to play with mine, and my home was actually egged. They didn’t know me, some had not even met me, but somehow they knew I was a Mormon. But over the years we have won them over. And I count my evangelical and catholic friends, along with my Mormon friends, to be the best in the world.

  7. Andy

    The Democratic issue is two-fold. Utah is very conservative, so that’s a negative. As for the LDS church… Utah is stamped with being to blame for Prop 8 going the way it did since LDS members significantly disproportionately provided funding and volunteer hours for Prop 8. Of course there’s some anti-mormon bigotry in there I’m sure, but there’s a difference between hating the church itself, and strongly disagreeing with a political position the church took.

    • John Pack Lambert

      Except is was Latter-day Saints living in California who were the ones who donated millions of dollars to the Yes on 8 campaign. Anyone who paid even the most minimal attention to the matter knows this, since they know that multiple Latter-day Saints lost their jobs due to the actions of the mob after the vote.

  8. Brother Chuck Schroeder

    Could Utah’s reputation be hurting Mitt Romney?

    Could Utah’s reputation be hurting Mitt Romney?. Utah’s lawmaker’s could and do. Robert Bennett, For the Deseret News, that’s why “YOU” were excommunicated by GOP and the Tea Party. “Americans are anchored in the zoo with the center of their hands tied until re-election time comes around.” Then you rattle their cage’s and toss them some monkey earmarks for peanuts for votes. And he’s a researcher and lecturer at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics ?. “HA!.” Senator Hatch is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance for almost 40 years, where he has been a leading advocate for policies to encourage savings and investment for the rich only, such as the Capital Formation Act, and many other pro-growth tax bills for the Koch Brother’s. Why nothing gets done in Washington DC while they get paid for it. My staff and Sen. Mike Lee want my Washington D.C. office to be a place where visitors from Utah feel at home. Every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., we host “Jell-O with the Senator.” All are invited to come meet me and enjoy a serving of Utah’s official state snack. How about Congress starts repealing the commodities modernization act ?. For better or worse the Magic 8 Ball has made more decisions for more people than the president and congress combined. Let’s also ban a crooked culture hidden under the heavy dirty dust of politics corruption and crony capitalism the Koch Brother’s and their Ethanol 15 and the 54 ethanol manufacturers, plus K Street and Wall Street Corporate sneakiness and their outright-scams and con-games, more corruption and crony capitalism in Congress along with insider trading, crooked offshore tax safe havens in secret bank accounts that they invested in up-market homes and hotels, tons of loopholes that allow qualifying Institutions to still serve as conduits for Tax Evasion.

  9. Amelia

    Yes, I thought that line was some kind of error too. I’ve only lived in this country for three years but my impression so far is that it’s the right who are saying the president is a Muslim from Kenya! Jay Evensen, could you please fix that line?

  10. Brother Chuck Schroeder

    Hello Brother Jay Evensen, the Associate Editor of the Deseret News editorial page.

    On second thought…..

    DO I THINK yes I do, I think anti-Mormon bias is hurting Mitt Romney just like google hurts this fool. Type the word “Santorum” in Google and you won’t find his campaign website or other positive, useful information about him in the first, second or even third entries. In fact, almost every entry on the all-important first page of “Santorum” results the one most users see is laden with nasty, sometimes vulgar attacks. Santorum himself says that Google is treating him with a double standard and addressed the high-tech aspersions cast against him, via what the media has euphemistically called “Santorum’s Google problem.” Google’s anti-Santorum bias, real or imagined, may be costing him votes. Adding to the concern that Google may be leaning in favor of Mitt Romney in the GOP primary is the fact that on Friday Google hired former Rep. Susan Molinari, R-NY, a staunch Romney supporter, to head its lobbying team. Google relies on an elaborate series of algorithms, or mathematical rules, to determine how much play to give any given story. As Internet usage has grown, expanding into portable devices such as cell phones, mastering the ability to optimize search results has become an important industry. That is as true for politics as any other field of endeavor.

    Americans dislike Utah, which hurts Romney to.

  11. Brother Chuck Schroeder

    Do the bookies have something to do with this?.

    Do you think anti-Mormon bias is hurting Mitt Romney?

    Yes (92%, 212 Votes)

    No (8%, 19 Votes)

    Total Voters: 231

  12. Maddy

    Wow Michele Yerby did that really happen to you? Very sad and disturbing. I’ve often thought if I were ever to move back to Utah, Park City is where I would live. I’m so grateful for the many years Ive lived outside Utah. I believe Ive become a more well-rounded, open-minded person as a result. I will forever cherish my wonderful non-Mormon neighbors and always happily attended their parties.

    So why do Republicans hate CA so much? CA is extremely diverse politically, economically, ethnically etc.

    I do think there is an element of anti-Mormon bias which affects Romney. He hasn’t been the Republican nominee (yet) and
    McCain was probably not substantially more conservative than Romney.

    I think we LDS though fail to examine whether there might be legitimate reasons why other denominations dont think fondly of LDS members. We have an aggressive and expansive missionary program, trying to lure parishioners away. Jehovah Witnesses are the only other denomination that has ever come to my door prosletyzing.

    I agree, the church should really give up the pretense of not endorsing a political party since the newspaper it owns doesn’t even attempt to provide balance in the political realm.

  13. Brother Chuck Schroeder

    NO “polls” reflect jealousy towards Utahns. HEY, Glenn Beck “HEARTS” Utah. Or does he?. Is Utah that heartless?. Let’s see. Could Utah’s reputation be hurting Mitt Romney?. WHY DO American’s hate Utah?. Look at all the fruitcakes supporting a guy who abused his dog. And they want him for president?. Priceless. Mitt Romney may not have told the whole truth about the scandalous tale of his Irish Setter, Seamus, being strapped to the roof of his car during a 12-hour family road trip to Canada. According to a trusted Politicker tipster, two of Mr. Romney’s sons had an off-record conversation with reporters where they revealed the dog ran away when they reached their destination on that infamous journey in 1983. Mitt said you know, PETA has not been my fan over the years. PETA has been after me for having a rodeo at the Olympics and were very, very upset about that. PETA was after me when I went quail hunting in Georgia, As in a moderate hunting a Dan Quail. And PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air. When it comes to road-tripping with your pet pooch, the ASPCA and PETA say don’t do as Mitt Romney did and strap Fido to the top of the car. Remember in 2009, a PETA investigator worked undercover inside the laboratories of the University of Utah (the U) in Salt Lake City and documented miserable conditions for and terrible suffering of the dogs, cats, monkeys, rats, mice, rabbits, frogs, cows, pigs, and sheep confined there. Their investigation revealed that mice and rats were caused to develop enormous tumors and painful, deadly illnesses. Rats and monkeys had holes drilled into their skulls in invasive brain experiments. The monkeys were locked in steel cages by themselves, kept constantly thirsty so that they would do what experimenters wanted just for a sip of water, and regularly immobilized in restraint chairs for experimental sessions. Sick and injured animals were denied veterinary care and left to languish and die. Then there’s House Bill (H.B.) 187 has passed through the Utah House of Representatives and is now before the Senate. If passed, this bill could subject whistleblowers to criminal prosecution for their efforts to expose animal abuse on factory farms. The bill would make it a crime to photograph or record video or sound of a farm without the farm owner’s consent and could stop vital undercover work that exposes routine abuse of animals in the factory-farming industry. This absurd and unconstitutional bill, which infringes on Americans’ basic rights, is a desperate attempt by agriculture industry giants to prevent consumers from learning the truth about the lives and deaths of animals on factory farms.

    You be the Judge here.

  14. Mark

    Stop all the poor persecuted me comments. Mormonism has little to do with it. Let’s be real honest, driving from Utah Valley all the way up to Ogden is just plain ugly. It is the only stretch of highway that has more billboards than there are trees in the state. It looks like a really bad interpretation of the strip in Vegas. From super ugly businesses crammed together with what looks like a total lack of any kind of zoning, to the rusted out appliances in farmer Joes back 40. It looks anything but like a flowering garden in a desert. You have been given a beautiful place to live, take care of it. I can only image what you all would do with the federal land if you got your hands on it.

    And people, when someone makes eye contact with you, say hi. If someone new comes into your ward/church, say hi. It will not kill you. And people, its not your mormonism they don’t like about you, it is your attitude that you are better than everyone else that has people not liking you. Most people respect the values of Mormons its the attitude that becomes hard to swallow from time to time.

  15. Kari

    While it is possible that Utah’s “reputation” could be hurting Mitt Romney, I think it is far more likely that if anything is hurting him it is the lack of understanding people have about the Mormon Church. Mitt’s only ties to Utah, as far as I know, are primarily based on the fact that he is Mormon. Not all Mormons live in Utah. Utah is not Mitt’s home state. Further there are many Mormons living in many other states and in many other parts of the world. Mitt also owned a home in Utah, in Park City, interestingly enough. I am Mormon, raised in Utah, but have lived in or traveled to many other parts of the country. When my family moved to Southern California a few years ago, the first thing my new next door neighbor asked me when she saw Utah plates on our car was, “does your husband have more than one wife?” The assumption being that if you are from Utah or have any ties to Utah at all such as in Mitt’s case, you are Mormon, and therefore involved in strange practices such as polygamy, and are also likely to be prudish, politically conservative to the enth degree, and highly prejudiced toward anyone who does not share your beliefs. This is ridiculous. Please look at Mitt the man who has many fine qualities, much experience, and would make a good President of the United States.

  16. Jim

    Abraham Lincoln was a republican.

    Republican President Dwight Eisenhower sent troops to ensure that schools in Little Rock, Ark., were desegregated and ordered the complete desegregation of the Armed Forces.

    Woodrow Wilson, probably the most blatantly racist president this country has ever had, was a democrat.

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Democrat icon and orchestrator of Japanese Internment. FDR nominated former Klansman Hugo Black to the Supreme Court.

    Ex-Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd, former Ku Klux Klansman known for making bigoted slurs on national television.

    82% of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 versus only 64% of Democrats.

    Who’s the only black American currently on the Supreme Court? Clarence Thomas. The first black Secretary of State? Colin Powell. The first black woman ever to be a Secretary of State? Condi Rice. All republicans, in case you didn’t know.

    Democrats and liberals are only tolerant of people that agree with them. They don’t tolerate those that disagree with them at all. Just read all of the nasty comments here and on the Trib’s website. The nastiest comments are from liberals and democrats. The VERY nastiest ones are from non-Mormon haters ranting and raving about how much they hate this state and all the Mormons. If you’re all so miserable here, why do you stay?

  17. Kith

    Here’s the deal with Utah. Normal in Utah is being Mormon. The guy stealing stuff from everyone is Mormon. The bully at the local playground is Mormon. Everyone and their mother and their dog is identified as Mormon, no matter if they are faithful members of the Church or not. It’s also a completely different culture there. I’m a California Mormon, as is the majority of my family and we aren’t comfortable there either. What happened to Michele is absolutely appalling, but those hateful people are not truly LDS. What they did is in complete contrast to LDS doctrine.

    • John Pack Lambert

      Only 57% of the people in Utah self-identify as being Latter-day Saints. It is time for people to stop assuming everything done in Utah is done by Mormons. I once read somewhere where someone was trying to prove there are liberal Latter-day Saints, so they brought up Rocky Anderson. While it is clear there are liberals who are Latter-day Saints, Rocky Anderson is about as anti-Latter-day Saint as people come, and I have to say the person who has done more than anyone else to increase distrust, disunity and ill-will in Utah.

    • Kari

      Interesting that in Utah if someone has comitted a crime, been a bully, is a liar and a cheat or is in the news in any way that is negetive, his/her religion is never mentioned if he is Protstant, Caholic, Muslim, or whatever….only if the person is Mormon. Now, that is prejudice.

  18. John Pack Lambert

    Actually any study will show that Evenson in making a point about who is biased. It is clearly liberals who have lead a boycott against Utah.

    Attempts to claim the people of Utah are unfriendly, bigotted or some other negative fail in the face of actual data. It is true there are negative and hateful people in Utah, but there are negative and hateful people everywhere. Just be glad you do not live in Michigan where the mayor of our largest city tries to get people enraged over the killing of a six-year-old and largely fails to rouse people from their stuppor of apathy.

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