Poll: Sen. Orrin Hatch still struggles with job approval

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch’s disapproval rating has crept up to half of all Utahns, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Lee’s approval rating is about opposite of Hatch’s disapproval rating: Lee’s job approval rating is 51 percent, found UPD pollster Dan Jones & Associates.

Jones’ latest survey shows that 50 percent of Utahns disapprove of the job Hatch is doing in the U.S. Senate.

Forty-five percent approve of Hatch, while 4 percent don’t know.

For Lee, however, 51 percent approve of his job performance, 38 percent disapprove, and 11 percent don’t know.


Hatch’s approval rating is somewhat inexplicable to many political observers, especially in Washington where he is viewed as one of the most effective Senators in history. As president pro tem, Hatch is third in line for the presidency, is chair of the powerful Finance Committee, and is actively involved in nearly every major issue being debated in Washington.

He is also has a very large communications machine that turns out numerous press releases, videos, social media posts, and essays published in many local and national publications. He is also a mainstream, problem-solving Republican, which seems to fit the mood of Utah voters these days.

An incumbent always wants to be above 50 percent in his job approval rating. So why is Hatch below 50 percent? There is one big reason, say most analysts:  he’s simply been in office for too long. Even Hatch’s clout and strengths can’t compensate for being in office longer than many of his constituents have been alive.

And for Hatch – who back in the 1990s and 2000s saw his approval ratings in the 60s, even 70s, his fall from grace among Utahns – with only 45 percent approving of what he’s doing — is significant.

Several recent Jones’ surveys have found Hatch struggling while Lee is barely winning the hearts of most Utahns.

And the consistency of the numbers over the last year show that Hatch’s approval ratings likely won’t rebound unless – and until – he formally announces his anticipated retirement at the end of 2018.

UtahPolicy reported in May that Hatch is likely to retire next year, and that former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was likely to run for his seat.

Other Utah media basically ignored that report.

But when UtahPolicy again reported that likelihood in September, both local and national media followed the story – many with separate sources than UtahPolicy had.

Hatch, 83, promised when he ran for re-election to a record-setting 7th term in 2012 that it would be his last.

But several years ago Hatch started hedging on that promise, and for most of 2017 he’s been telling the press and public that he likely would run again next year, if his and/or his wife’s health allowed for that.

But as UtahPolicy reported earlier this year, close associates of Hatch have started fundraising for a Hatch Foundation – with the eye that the senior senator would have meaningful political and policy work as head of the university-based foundation, should he decide to retire.

Now Hatch aides say the senator will announce whether he will run or not in December.

But Romney – who basically saved Utah’s 2002 Winter Olympic effort – appears ready and able to run if Hatch doesn’t, UtahPolicy is told.

The latest survey reflects earlier ones in this interesting fact:

Hatch continues to have a problem with the rightwing of his own party.

Among those who told Jones they are “very conservative” politically, only 55 percent approve of Hatch, while 40 percent disapprove of the job he’s doing.

But 79 percent of the “very conservative” Utahns approve of Lee, while only 10 percent don’t.

Among the “somewhat conservative” voters, the senators are about the same – 64-31 approval for Hatch; 66-22 approval for Lee.

And down through the moderates, somewhat liberal and very liberal categories, the men are about the same, as well.

The numbers show that many Utah GOP right-wingers have basically had it with Hatch, as they see him as a D.C. insider of 40 years in office who would be 84 when he runs again and 90 when he left office at the end of his 8th term.

Some of the other demographic numbers in the new job approval survey:

  • 66 percent of Republicans like the job Hatch is doing. That may sound good, but he should be higher among his own political party.
  • 29 percent of Republicans don’t like Hatch – that is between a third and a fourth of his own people. Not a good number.
  • Among Republicans, Lee has a 69-18 percent approval rating.

Of course Democrats are not going to like either man, and the poll shows they don’t:

  • Hatch’s disapproval rating among Democrats is 88-11 percent; while Lee’s is 82-16 percent.

Political independents dislike Hatch more than they do Lee:

  • Hatch’s disapproval among independents is 57-38 percent; Lee’s is 46-42 percent.

Finally, the “very active” LDS demographic shows Hatch’s argument that the Mormon Church needs him in a powerful Senate position to protect the church’s religious freedom isn’t working very well, either.

Jones finds that 59 percent of the “very active” Mormons approve of the job Hatch is doing, while 36 percent disapprove.

For Lee, 66 percent of “very active” Mormons approve of his job performance, while 24 percent disapprove.

Jones polled 608 adults from Aug. 30-Sept. 5. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.