GOP Gov. Gary Herbert remains the most popular officeholder statewide, a UtahPolicy.com poll finds.
The new Dan Jones & Associates survey finds that 64 percent of Utahns have a “very” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of the governor, who won a third term going away last year.
Only 28 percent of Utahns have an unfavorable opinion of Herbert, who just celebrated his 70th birthday.
Herbert is doing much better among his constituents statewide than U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both R-Utah, who have 45-49 percent and 53-36 percent favorable ratings, respectively, Jones finds.
The governor’s new rating is about where he stood in a January UtahPolicy poll, then having a 63-29 percent favorable rating.
Utah political watchers have been wondering for some time how Herbert may use his large political capital – for Herbert said during his 2016 re-election campaign that he would not run for office again in 2020.
Herbert has, in the past, done a few controversial things – like vetoing a bill that would have allowed any law-abiding adult to carry a concealed weapon without a special permit.
But the governor has not aggressively taken on a number of controversial issues that are seen, in other polls, as favored by a majority of Utahns – like tax hikes for public education or a bipartisan, independent redistricting commission.
Both of the above ideas are subjects of citizen initiative petitions and could be on the 2018 general election ballot.
Herbert is against the Our Schools Now public education tax hike, and only says the bi-partisan redistricting commission is worthy of discussion.
In his new survey for UtahPolicy, Jones finds:
- Herbert has majority support from all political groups except Democrats and liberals.
- Republicans like Herbert, 83-11 percent.
- Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of the governor, 62-30 percent.
- Political independents like him, 56-37 percent.
Unlike Hatch – who is considering running for an 8th, six-year term in 2018 – Herbert is doing just fine among Utah’s right wing:
- 82 percent of those who self-identified to Jones that they are “very conservative” political have a favorable opinion of Herbert, while 15 percent do not.
- 80 percent of those who are “somewhat conservative” like the governor, 10 percent don’t.
- Two-thirds of “moderates” (66 percent), like Herbert, 26 percent do not.
- Those who are “somewhat liberal” disapprove of Herbert, 67-26 percent; while the “very liberal” dislike him, 74-19 percent.
It is clear the governor could lead his state party back towards the “mainstream” Republican right-of-center, even if some arch-conservative, anti-SB54 zealots continue to oppose his support of the 2014 dual-pathway to the primary ballot law.
Herbert is a following member of the Mormon Church, and among the faith’s active members Herbert does well – 82-13 percent favorable.
He gets majority approval ratings from all other faiths, finds Jones.
However, those who said they have no religion don’t like the governor, 61-27 percent.
Finally, Herbert was a Utah County commissioner before former-Gov. Jon Huntsman tapped him to run as his lieutenant governor candidate back in 2004.
And Jones finds that geographically speaking, Herbert is liked most by Utah County residents, 77-14 percent, and by Southern Utahns, 77-15 percent.
While still holding a majority favorable rating, Herbert does worst in Salt Lake County, where 51 percent of residents approve of him, while 44 percent disapprove.
A recent Morning Consult story compared all 50 state governor’s popularity ratings. Herbert came in 9th most popular in that compilation.
However, if the latest Jones’ numbers are used for Herbert, he would actually tie for 6th place nationally as the most popular governor in the U.S., based on their own constituents’ opinions.
The most unpopular?
No surprise, New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie, who is still smarting from all the bad press for sitting in swim trunks (not a pretty picture) on a New Jersey beach closed over the July 4th holiday because he and state lawmakers couldn’t agree on a budget.
Sixty-nine percent of New Jersey residents have an unfavorable opinion of their governor.
Utahns like to like their governors. And while a 64 percent approval rating is good these days, Herbert still doesn’t come close to the approval ratings of some of his recent predecessors – who had ratings in the 70th, even 80th percentiles.
Jones polled 607 adults from May 31 to June 5. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percent.