Dan Jones wraps up mayoral elections

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The Salt Lake City mayoral election was determined by those who didn’t vote.

Frank Pignanelli’s supporters didn’t make it to the polls, while incumbent Mayor Rocky Anderson’s did, said opinion poll specialist Dan Jones, who is also the associate interim director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Jones explained the statistics of this week’s mayoral election, outlining who voted for what and why in a lecture at the institute late Thursday morning.

Jones predicted Anderson would win with 53 percent of the vote. The final count gave Anderson 54 percent of the vote to beat Pignanelli.

Jones’ predictions before the primary elections were equally accurate.

“You must have really, really good data and must be a really, really good demographer,” Jones said regarding his accuracy.

Jones was less accurate predicting the out come of the six propositions Salt Lake City citizens voted on Tuesday.

Voting for propositions is different from voting for candidates in a race, he said.

“When people don’t know, they vote no,” he said.

Usually fewer people vote for the propositions, Jones said. He used this fact to emphasize the importance of voting. When something wins by only 300 votes, it’s proof that every vote counts, he said.

Prop. 5, proposing the construction of an athletic complex on the west side, also taught a lesson about politics, he said.

Jones predicted the proposition would fail. But the weekend before the election, children went door-to-door in the snow asking people to vote yes so they could have a soccer field close by. This kind of activity can turn an election at the last minute, he said.

“It’s not a science, it’s a craft,” he said of his profession.

Jones alluded that the mayoral election was decided by those who didn’t vote by explaining how Pignanelli’s supporters didn’t have a good turnout at the polls.

Of people older than age 65, one of the most politically active demographic groups, more than 60 percent supported Pignanelli.

But many did not go to the polls because of the weather. There could have been a record turnout of voters, if not for the snow, he said.

One of the most dominant demographic groups, LDS Republicans, overwhelmingly supported Pignanelli, but very few voted, Jones said.

Pignanelli, like Anderson, is a Democrat.

“It’s hard for a Republican to go out and vote for a Democrat,” he said.

The Republican candidate in the primary election, Molonai Hola, refused to officially endorse Pignanelli. Had he, the election results may have been different, Jones said.

Pignanelli may have lost some of his Democratic supporters by leaning too far right to get Republican votes, he said.

Mayoral elections are not supposed to be partisan, Jones said. But they often are the most partisan because the outcomes have the greatest affect on the daily lives of citizens.

In the end, however, Jones said Anderson won because he had name recognition and high approval ratings. He also said Pignanelli’s climb from only 30 percent of the vote in the primary election to 46 percent in the final election was very impressive.

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