Utah GOP Gov. Gary Herbert has been in office for nine years, and his approval ratings continue to be the highest of major officeholders in the state, a new UtahPolicy.com poll shows.

Seventy percent of Utahns “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the job Herbert is doing as governor.

He has just over two years left in his administration – he’s not running again in 2020.

How will he use some of that positive political capital?

Push for greater background checks for firearm purchases?

Ensure that Utah’s schools are properly funded?

Work to resolve the feuding between the GOP’s mainstream members and the hard-core right wing, which are squabbling over SB54?

One thing is clear, Herbert enters his political endgame with a lot of good will, even among independents and Democrats.

Our pollster, Dan Jones & Associates, finds in a new survey:

  • All Utahns like Herbert, 70-25 percent, with 5 percent undecided.

  • He is loved among rank-and-file Republican voters, 88-8 percent with 4 percent undecided.

  • Political independents, who don’t belong to any political party, approve of the job he’s doing, 64-29 percent, with 8 percent undecided.

  • While most Democrats, 63 percent, disapprove of the job Herbert, a Republican, is doing, 35 percent – or more than one-third – still approve of the governor. Only 1 percent of Democrats don’t have an opinion of him.

 

That shows Herbert is not seen as overly partisan – especially among the independents.

That is borne out by these numbers:

  • While it is expected that those who told Jones they are “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative” would approve of the governor, 88-11 percent and 86-10 percent, respectively, Herbert also is well liked by moderates, even some liberals.

  • Self-identified “moderates” like the governor, 69-24 percent – a really good number.

  • 42 percent of those who said they are “somewhat liberal,” still like the job he’s doing; 54 percent don’t.

  • And the “very liberals?” Thirty-one percent like Herbert, while 67 percent don’t.

To have a third of those who are on the opposite side of the political spectrum still like you? That has to be a big win in these overly-partisan times.

Herbert's approval ratings have remained high over the past year of UtahPolicy.com's polling, not dipping below the high 60's.

 

Herbert and his Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox refused to call a legislative special session a year ago and, instead, set up a 3rd U.S. House District special election that allowed a non-convention-approved GOP candidate to win – Rep. John Curtis.

And Herbert has said if the GOP-controlled Legislature guts or repeals SB54, as governor he will veto that bill.

That sets Herbert up against the hard-core right-wingers who have been internally smashing up the state Republican Party over SB54.

When those folks lost – yet again – another appeal in federal court last week, Cox issued a statement that indicated he and Herbert may be ready to push the SB54 fight aside within the state party, and finally put that infighting behind them.

We’ll see.

But, clearly, Herbert has the popularity to deal with sticky political issues without fear of much opposition:

88 percent of the “very conservative” and 88 percent of rank-and-file Republicans like the job the governor is doing.

If Herbert is going to stand up to the party’s right wing, both in the Legislature and in the party, with two years left in his administration and all that political capital, now would be the time to do it – since he does not face another election.

Jones polled 615 adults from May 15-25. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.