Poll: McAdams gets good favorable ratings inside Salt Lake County, but has work to do

Salt Lake County Democratic Mayor Ben McAdams has a 57 percent approval rating – good, but not great – in the county, a new UtahPolicy.com poll shows.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates also finds that McAdams is not well known outside of his home base, with nearly half of Utahns statewide either having heard of him, but having no opinion, or never heard of him at all.

Admittedly, McAdams has taken some hits this year over the controversial issue of locating a new homeless shelter in the county, but outside of Salt Lake City.

He (and other leaders) were booed at a Draper City town hall over the issue earlier this year, and McAdams alone had to recommend a new homeless site – which ended up being in South Salt Lake City just off of 33rd South on the west side.

So McAdams, who was clearly the Democratic golden boy of politics, has seen better days politically.

If McAdams were to have any shot at winning the Utah governor’s seat, or a U.S. House seat – like in the 4th District – he likely would have to win more than 65 percent or 70 percent of Salt Lake County.

And he’s not there yet.

Jones finds that among his own Salt Lake County voters:

  • 57 percent have a “very” or “somewhat” favorable opinion of McAdams.
  • 15 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.
  • 15 percent have heard of McAdams, but have no opinion of him.
  • And 13 percent have never heard of him.

Among all Utahns statewide:

  • 40 percent have a favorable opinion of McAdams.
  • 14 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.
  • 21 percent have heard of McAdams, but have no opinion of him.
  • And 25 percent (a quarter of all Utahns) have never heard of McAdams.

So, among his Salt Lake County constituents, McAdams has an exceptional plus 42 net favorable rating.

But among all Utahns, that favorable rating drops to plus 26 percent — and 46 percent have no opinion of him.


A Jones’ poll for UtahPolicy in 2015 found McAdams with a fine 67 percent approval rating in the county. So over two years, McAdams has been knocked down 10 percentage points on the “favorable” side – most of that likely coming over the ongoing, two-year homeless debate.

As it now stands, McAdams is still the Democrats best hope in a 2020 governor’s race – when he will be finishing his second mayor’s term. He beat his GOP opponent last year, 59-41 percent.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert has said he wouldn’t run for re-election in three years.

And the Republican field is expected to be large, with any number of current officeholders – including retiring 3rd District Rep. Jason Chaffetz – looking at an open seat.

McAdams poll numbers inside of Salt Lake County and statewide are very different –meaning the mayor will have a tougher potential race for the governorship than he had in his re-election:

  • In the county (which makes up about 40 percent of the state’s population), McAdams has a 57-15 percent favorability.
  • Statewide it is only 40-14 percent.
  • Among county Republicans – who are more moderate than statewide – McAdams stands at 50-22 percent favorability.
  • County Democrats give him a 69-7 favorable, very good.
  • And political independents in the county give him a 56-14 percent favorable.

So McAdams is at or above 50 percent favorable in the county among partisan groups, a fine showing.

But those numbers drop statewide:

  • Among Republicans, McAdams is a 39-13 percent favorable. But 49 percent of Republicans statewide have no opinion of him or don’t know him at all
  • 48 percent of Democrats statewide approve of McAdams, 14 percent disapprove, but 38 percent have no opinion of him.
  • Among political independents – whom he will definitely need if he’s to win the governorship – 39 percent have a favorable opinion of him, 16 percent have an unfavorable impression of him, 20 percent have heard of him, but have no opinion, and 28 percent have never heard of him.

So nearly half of all independents statewide have no opinion of him.

Thus, the GOP has a big shot at defining McAdams with independents in the governor’s race.

That would be a challenge for any Democrat in 2020 in very Red Utah.

McAdams will have nearly four years to prove his homeless decisions are correct and to win back some popularity among not only Salt Lake County voters, but those outside of his home base as well.

McAdams has not shown much interest in a U.S. House race.

His – or any Democrat’s — best shot is in the 4th District, now held by GOP Rep. Mia Love.

Jones finds in his latest poll that McAdams has a 42-13 percent favorable rating in the 4th District, which includes Salt Lake County’s west side, south of Salt Lake City, west side Utah County and parts of Iron County.

Twenty percent of 4th District voters have heard of McAdams, but have no opinion of him, while 24 percent have never heard of McAdams at all.

Jones polled March 22-29.

In Salt Lake County he polled 307 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.59 percent.

Statewide, Jones polled 844 adults, margin of error plus or minus 3.37 percent.

In the 4th District, he polled 219 adults, margin of error plus or minus 6.62 percent.