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Rate of voting for Utah women down, but civic engagement remains high

Oct 28, 2021, 4:08 PM | Updated: 8:39 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Fewer Utah women voted in the 2020 election than in years past, as compared to other states. And researchers said they don’t know why.

New research from Utah’s Women and Leadership Project (UWLP) shows Utah women voted more in 2018 than in 2020, compared to the rest of the nation.

“In 2018, we had risen to about 11th in the nation for women’s voting, and then two years later in last year’s election in 2020, we were 33rd in the nation,” said Dr. Susan Madsen, UWLP founder and one of three report authors.

According to the research, Utah had a 66.6 percent female turnout in 2020, which was higher (60.5%) than in 2018. But from the 2018 election to the 2020 election, Utah’s ranking among the states for women voting fell from 11th to 33rd. 

Madsen said researchers don’t know why.

“We’re hoping that it was just a little drop,” she said.

Civic engagement is high

Interestingly, their research shows 2020 was a high year for civic engagement, with more women running for office than ever in 2020.

“2020 was a record-setting year for women running for office in both the U.S. and Utah, and while Utah has no women serving in U.S. Congress, multiple Utah women are running for a national Senate seat in 2021,” said Robbyn Scribner, one of the report’s authors. “Research shows that when women decide to run for office, they are elected at the same rate as men, which is great news.”

Female voting priorities

According to the 2020 Utah Foundation survey of citizens’ priorities included in the report, the Top 10 policy issues for Utah female voters included:

  1.  K–12 education,
  2.  healthcare costs/access,
  3.  state taxes and governmental spending,
  4.  jobs and the economy,
  5.  public health/COVID-19 pandemic,
  6.  housing affordability,
  7.  politicians listening to voters,
  8. police support/reform,
  9. managing growth and
  10. racial inequality or racism.

Volunteering in Utah is also high
In addition to voting and advocating for public policy, volunteer work is another area researchers looked at residents’ involvement.

“For the past 14 years in a row, Utah ranked first in the nation for percentage of residents who regularly volunteer at 51%. This is a full 20 points higher than the national average of 30.3%,” said Scribner.

More work to do for gender equality in Utah

A 2021 UWLP research report on the status of women in Utah politics shows that Utah women remain underrepresented in statewide elected office, the state Legislature, county commissions, mayoral offices and city councils.

Read the full report here.

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