The public’s response to Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s veto of HB363

During the 2012 Utah legislative session, Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, sponsored a controversial bill that would limit what public school teachers could teach in sex education classes. House bill 363 would require schools to either teach abstinence-only sex education or discontinue sex education altogether.

Once the bill passed 45-28 in the house and 19-10 in the senate, a statewide debate ensued.

Utah’s current sex education courses teach abstinence-based curriculum but include information about contraceptives. Parents must opt-in their children to attend these, courses and an estimated 90 percent of Utah parents have done so in the past.

Opponents of HB363 started an online petition at requesting that Governor Herbert veto HB363. Prior to Herbert’s decision, more than 30,000 signatures were delivered to the Utah Governor’s Office. Opponents of the bill also included the Utah PTA, Utah Education Association, and the Alliance for a Better Utah.

On Friday evening, Governor Gary Herbert announced that he would veto the bill via Twitter: “I just vetoed #HB363. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice.”

When a governor vetoes a bill that passed by a majority vote in both houses of the Utah Legislature, one might question if the majority of Utah’s elected officials were acting in the public’s interest or if it was Governor Herbert who was doing so. Looking at aggregate data across Utah on social media may help answer this question.

Using a Twitter tool from, Governor Herbert’s Twitter handle saw more than 500 mentions within the last 48 hours. More than 400 of those tweets registered as having a neutral tone with more than 150 seeing a positive tone. The hashtag #HB363 saw nearly 100 tweets with a positive tone.

During the last 48 hours, Governor Herbert’s Twitter handle and hashtag #HB363 have been very active. Here is a chart of the tone of those tweets. 

A handful of negative responses to the veto appeared on Twitter. One negative tweet came from the Utah House Democrats who responded by tweeting, “A middle-of-the-night veto as soon as he felt the delegates were safe. Lack of leadership, sir!”

We have created a word cloud that combines all words from every tweet that included either @governorherbert or #HB363 within the last 48 hours. Some of the top words include parents, sign, vetoed, choice and deprives.

During the last 48 hours, Governor Herbert’s Twitter handle and hashtag #HB363 have been very active. Here is a world cloud of all tweets that included either #HB363 or @GovernorHerbert. 

Governor Gary Herbert’s veto announcement itself displayed an irregular reaction on Twitter. During the past month, each of the governor’s tweets has been retweeted just over two times on average. Governor Herbert’s tweet announcing his decision saw more than 50 retweets. It also generated 27 favorites. With fewer than one in five of Herbert’s tweets being favorited in the past, Herbert would traditionally need to send out 113 tweets to see that many favorites.

A Utahn with the handle @ThatFig responded to the announcement by tweeting, “Thank you!” @RyanKendrick from Draper, Utah, tweeted, “Bravo!” in response.

The publicity associated with this bill appears to have had an effect on the governor’s popularity. During the month leading up to the bill, Governor Herbert averaged seven new Twitter followers per day. Directly after the bill was passed by both houses and given to the governor for his consideration, this average jumped to 22 new followers per day.

Governor Herbert’s Twitter handle saw growth in followers during HB363 discussions. His follower numbers are shown here along with gubernatorial candidates Morgan Philpot and Ken Sumsion. 

Was Governor Herbert looking out for the interests of Utahns by vetoing house bill 363? You decide.

Sterling Morris is currently a graduate student at Utah State University working toward a master’s degree in management information systems. He is a social media analyst with He can be reached at 

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