Nearly half of Utahns say they approve of the job Gov. Gary Herbert is doing leading the state, but that approval has not trickled down to his Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox.
A new Utah Political Trends survey from UtahPolicy.com and Y2 Analytics finds 48% of Utahns approve of Gov. Gary Herbert’s job performance (19% “strongly approve” and 29% “somewhat approve). 32% say they disapprove. 13% felt neutral about Herbert’s job performance while 6% said they didn’t know.
About a third of Utahns (37%) say they approve of Cox’s job performance, while 14% disapprove. Nearly a quarter said they had no opinion about Cox, while 27% don’t know.
Editor’s note. In previous surveys about job performance, we did not include a “neither approve nor disapprove” choice for respondents. We feel this is a more accurate representation of voter attitudes about politicians and elected officials.
Herbert’s net approval rating of +16 is quite good, especially for someone who has been in office for a decade. Herbert has decided to not run for another term, but a double-digit net-positive job approval rating suggests he would be in prime position to run for another four-year term if he wanted to.
Just over a third of Utahns say they approve of Cox’s job performance (37%). 14% say they disapprove, which gives him a +20 net approval rating. But, nearly a quarter of Utahns (23%) did not have an opinion about Cox, while nearly the same number (27%) said they didn’t know.
Cox is the first declared Republican candidate to replace Herbert in the 2020 election, launching his campaign in late June. The half of Utahns in our poll who either had no opinion about Cox’s job performance or said they didn’t know Cox should raise some alarm bells for Cox’s future political ambitions. It suggests that Utah voters don’t know who Cox is or haven’t formed an opinion about him yet, meaning he likely needs to boost his name ID ahead of next year’s election. To that end, Cox driving the state, aiming to campaign in every town.
UtahPolicy.com pollster Kelly Patterson of Y2 Analytics says Cox has plenty of room to improve ahead of next year’s elections, and he’s already at a good starting point.
“His numbers mostly reflect that not too many people know what a Lt. Governor does. Furthermore, he does not have a high negative baseline, which would be a much better indicator of any threat to his electoral plans,” says Patterson.
Herbert gets good job approval ratings from Republicans, while Democrats aren’t entirely sold on him.
71% of self-described “strong” Republicans like Herbert’s job performance. Just 16% disapprove.
67% of “not very strong” Republicans think Herbert is performing his job well, while just 8% disapprove.
More Independent voters who lean toward the Republican side of the political spectrum approve of Herbert than those who disapprove 66-15%.
True independent voters are divided over Herbert, with 41% approving of his job performance and 38% disapproving.
Democrats mostly don’t like Herbert as governor, with just 22% of Democrats and 29% of independent voters who lean Democrat approving of his job performance.
If Herbert, as expected, decides to throw his weight behind Cox in next year’s race, it could have a big impact according to Patterson.
“It is always nice to have the backing of a popular incumbent. Endorsements help with fundraising, securing party support, and boosting recognition in the broader electorate. However, candidates can also acquire these resources without endorsements. Endorsements often serve simply to make a hard job a little easier,” he says.
Cox also gets good job approval ratings from his fellow Republican, but they are nowhere near Herbert’s high marks, which suggests Cox needs to increase his outreach to GOP voters as he campaigns for the 2020 Republican nomination.
Cox does better among Democrats than Herbert, likely because of his public support for LGBTQ rights. But at least half, or more, in these groups had no opinion about Cox or didn’t know who he was, which again suggests he has to boost his public profile significantly ahead of the race for the 2020 GOP primary.
The Utah Political Trends Panel was conducted among a random sample of 2,608 registered Utah voters using an online survey. The results were weighted to reflect Utah’s demographic makeup. The survey has a margin of error +/- 2.1%. You can read more about the survey’s methodology here.