3 out of 4 Utahns say the US economy is on wrong track

Brook Anderson counts cash from the cash box at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City on Nov. 24, 2023. Nearly half of Utah voters say financial issues — either price increases and inflation, or the economy and jobs — are the top issues impacting how they vote in the 2024 election.

Brook Anderson counts cash from the cash box at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City on Nov. 24, 2023. Nearly half of Utah voters say financial issues — either price increases and inflation, or the economy and jobs — are the top issues impacting how they vote in the 2024 election. (Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Less than five months ahead of the 2024 presidential election, Utah voters are unhappy with their own financial situations — and it's shaping who they plan to support in November.

Almost half of Utah voters (48%) say their personal financial situation is currently getting worse, while only 19% say it is improving, according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll conducted by HarrisX. The results mirror the shares of voters who say they will support President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump: 49% of Utahns plan to support Trump, while 20% back Biden, according to the poll.

The results continue a national trend of pessimism about the U.S. economy, even as inflation decreases and unemployment remains low — but interest rates and household debt near record highs.

When Utah voters were asked which issues are most impactful to their vote, financial issues were the most frequent responses: price increases and inflation (24%), and the economy and jobs (21%). Another 13% said immigration was their top issue; 11% said "family values, morality, or faith."

The poll was conducted by HarrisX among 857 registered Utah voters from June 6-7, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Voters across the country widely see the economy and immigration as the top issues driving their votes, too. Recent polling from Gallup and Pew show inflation as voters' top concern; in the most recent New York Times/Siena College poll of battleground voters, the economy and immigration are the top issues.

But Utahns are distinct in listing family values among their top issues. While most Americans say "the state of moral values" is a "very big problem" in the country today, according to a Pew survey, that one-tenth of Utah voters say this is their top issue driving their vote is significant.

3 out of 4 Utahns say the US economy is on wrong track
Photo: Deseret News

Among Republican Utah voters, 13% said "family values, morality, or faith" was the top issue that would impact how they vote this cycle. Among Democrats, 3% said the same.

Democrats and Republicans walk in lockstep in saying economic issues are their top concerns: among Democrats, 19% said price increases/inflation are their top issue, and 17% said the economy and jobs; among Republicans, 24% said price increases/inflation and 21% said the economy and jobs.

There is a deviation on the third-most common response: while Republicans (17%) view immigration as a top issue, a similar share of Democrats (15%) say abortion is most important to them.

While 9% of Utah Democrats said immigration is their top issue, a similar share (8%) said "Supreme and other federal court justice appointments" is most important to them — compared to just 2% of Republicans.

The general discontent about the economy seeps into who voters plan to support in the general election. Just 20% of Utah voters say they think the U.S. economy is on the right track, while 72% say it is on the wrong track. But among those who say they'll vote for Biden, a plurality — 47% — think the country is on the right track; among Trump supporters in the state, that figure is down to 12%.

The same is true when voters were asked about whether the country is generally on the right or wrong track. Only 14% of Utah voters say the U.S. is on the right track, while 77% say it is on the wrong track. Biden supporters are much more optimistic, but not by much: 32% of likely Biden voters say the country is on the right track, while 51% say it's on the wrong track. Only 10% of Trump voters say it's on the right track, and 87% say it's on the wrong track.

The same pessimism does not extend to the direction Utah is headed in, though. When asked if they think Utah is on the right or wrong track, voters are much more optimistic: nearly half, 48%, say the state is on the right track, a full 34 percentage points higher than those who say the same of the country. Both Biden and Trump supporters are more pleased with the state than the country: 43% of Biden supporters say Utah is on the right track, and 52% of Trump supporters agree.

It's a trend that isn't unique to Utah: according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, voters in swing states consistently view their local economy much more favorably than the national economy. Only a quarter of battleground voters think the nation is heading in the right direction; only 36% consider the U.S. economy to currently be "excellent" or "good."

3 out of 4 Utahns say the US economy is on wrong track

But when you ask the same voters about their own states, they are much more complimentary. Overall, 56% of swing-state voters have favorable views of their local economy — a full 20 percentage points higher than those who view the nation's economy favorably.

"It's a strange predicament that has puzzled some economists and has politicians in both parties searching for explanations," Paul Kane wrote in The Washington Post. "That chasm between the state of the states and the state of the nation could determine whether President Biden wins a second term and who will control Congress next year. All this could translate very differently when it comes to how voters size up candidates to represent them on the state, local and national level."

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Samuel Benson
Samuel Benson is the national political correspondent for the Deseret News. He covers the 2024 presidential election. He worked as the lead researcher on two best-selling books: “Romney: A Reckoning,” by McKay Coppins; and “Barkley: A Biography,” by Timothy Bella. He studied sociology and Spanish at Brigham Young University. When not writing or reading, Benson enjoys cycling and hiking in Utah’s beautiful outdoors.

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