The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Political Patriarch’

Professor Dan Jones almost never misses lectures.

Jones is said to have only canceled class once since he began teaching political science and civics courses at Utah colleges in 1959–first at Utah State and now the U.

Jones, 72, missed one lecture for an early-morning class at the U last summer after receiving open-heart surgery. He recruited Sen. Orrin Hatch to fill in for the day.

“If I ask students to be to class, then I should be there,” Jones said.

His expectation for steadfast attendance applies to students, too. Jones is known in the U political science department, where he began teaching part time in 1980, for reprimanding students who skip class.

“Upon missing a class, it is not uncommon for students to receive a personal phone call from Dan Jones,” stated Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, in a letter. “(Students) learn quickly that although his lectures begin early, at 7:30 a.m. sharp, sleeping in is not an option.”

Jones’ dedication to students recently earned him the first Civic, Character and Service Learning Award from the Utah Commission on Civic and Character Education. He was nominated for the award by the Hinckley Institute.

Jowers said many of the thousands of students who have gone through Jones’ classes have gained an appreciation for the political arena and gone on to become government officials and employees.

“I believe you make the classroom real and go out and apply what you learn,” Jones said.

This message of applied politics is more than just a motto for Jones.

Aside from his career as an educator, Jones has made a name for himself as a local pollster–he is co-owner and founder of Dan Jones and Associates, one of the state’s largest polling firms.

The firm is frequently contracted to conduct polls for politicians and local media outlets.

Jones’ reputation for accurate polls has won names like the “Patriarch of Utah Politics” and “Utah’s Political Yoda.”

In the last election, Jones’ firm accurately predicted the outcome of 11 major elections and ballot measures within in a few percentage points.

Jones also involves students in his polling firm. Many of the callers for his phone banks are current or former students.

While Jones has spent the majority of his life teaching and observing politics in Utah, he hails from Pocatello, Idaho. After coming to the U as a graduate student, Jones conducted his first poll for The Salt Lake Tribune on the 1959 Salt Lake City mayoral race, and he has been working in the profession ever since.

“Polling isn’t for everybody–you have to like people,” Jones said. “I’ve never awakened one morning and said I hate going to work.”

Outsiders sometimes try to peg Jones with a given political party–a label he fervently avoids. He said many wrongly assume he is a Democrat because his wife, Sen. Patricia Jones, serves as a Democrat in the state Legislature.

“Many republicans think I’m a Democrat in sheep’s clothing,” Jones said.

But Jones, who describes himself as a political independent, said he remains unbiased as a pollster and as an educator.

“Dan is (just) interested in good politics,” said Ron Hrebenar, chairman of the Political Science Department.

Hrebenar said the U political science program is well-known for having Jones as a professor–a job he said pays little compared to Jones’ lucrative polling business.

“Dan doesn’t need this job–I just think he loves it,” Hrebener said.

After nearly 50 years of teaching, Jones hasn’t set a retirement date, but plans to at least teach through the 2008 presidential election.

“I’m more excited for the ’08 presidential election than any other election I can remember,” Jones said.

Kim Peterson

Dan Jones talks with U senior Sara Bradley as she conducts polling research at Jones’ polling company in Trolley Corners on Nov. 27.

Kim Peterson

Dan Jones reminisces about conducting polls during past elections in his lengthy career Monday at his office in Trolley Corners.

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