Why Do So Few Voters Show Up for the Primaries?

Leading up to yesterday’s municipal primary election, it was readily assumed that voter turnout would be low. Libertas Institute contacted county clerks around the state to determine which municipalities were holding primary elections. The total count is 81. 1,112,052 registered Utah voters live within these 81 municipalities.

We surveyed 500 random voters from this narrowed list on August 14, 2013 via an automated phone system. Sampled voters were contacted and administered a questionnaire. Half of respondents were contacted on their mobile phone, half on a landline. The margin of sampling error is ±4.38%.

NEW: Those wishing to perform their own analysis of the survey results may download the full data here. Questions? Contact us.

1. Have you attended a city or town council meeting in the past four years?

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

Here is the breakdown by age group:

2. Do you know the name of your city or town’s mayor?

3. Do you feel that your views are adequately represented by your city or town’s council?

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

Here is the breakdown by age group:

4. The 2013 primary election concluded yesterday. Did you attend a “meet the candidates” event to speak with or learn more about the candidates running for office in your city or town?

Note: Only 30.5% of Utahns who claimed to have voted (see the next question) also said that they attended a “meet the candidates” event.

5. Did you vote in this year’s primary election?

Here is the breakdown by political affiliation:

Here is the breakdown by age group:


The results presented here indicate that polls are not as accurate an indicator of activity as they are opinion. People are comfortable sharing what they believe, but when asked if they performed an action (especially one that most people feel some obligation to do) many may choose to lie.

Voter turnout was definitely less than what was determined through this poll. The state does not provide any data on the overall turnout rate of municipal primary elections, but many cities are reporting single digit rates. A few examples: Ogden had 5.2%; Provo had 8%; Orem had 17.7%; Draper had 8.4%; West Valley City had 12.6%. With 41% of eligible Utah voters claiming that they did in fact vote (again, with a ±4.38% margin of error) many respondents were not in fact telling the truth.

This survey did not ask non-voting individuals why they chose not to vote, but for some insight on this trend see our previous survey where we asked the question of habitual non-voters.