UTAH (ABC4) – Politicians have traditionally been judged on their stances when it comes to controversial topics. New for this election cycle, politicians will also be judged on how they treat their opposition from across the aisle as they challenge for seats in the federal government. 

The Utah Midterm Elections will serve as the proverbial “guinea pig” for the new Dignity Index designed to incentivize candidates nationwide to treat their opponents with dignity and respect. 

“Utah does politics differently but our state is not immune to the national trend to demonize and belittle political opponents, dividing people instead of bringing communities together,” said Tami Pyfer, Utah project lead for The Dignity Index. “Differences and disagreements don’t cause division; contempt causes division and we want to make an impact that raises expectations across the board.”

Designed by behavioral scientists, a group of trained coders from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and the Hinckley Institute of Politics will rate the speeches, social media posts, campaign ads, and more of every Utah politician running for a federal seat. 

The coders will give materials a score of one through eight, with one showing the least amount of dignity and eight showing the highest. Scores will be published weekly, every Friday, on dignityindex.us until Election Day on November 8.  

“Politicians are scored on how they vote on nearly every issue but not on how they treat their opponents,” said Pyfer. “By rating how they speak to – and about – one another, we’re hoping they will see the benefit of taking the higher road.” 

The Dignity Index is powered by UNITE, a national movement to encourage Americans to reject “us vs them” thinking and led locally by a board of members including former Utah Governor Gary Herbert.