Approval ratings for Gov. Herbert and the Utah Legislature fall after the failure of tax reform

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Voter perceptions of Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and the Utah State Legislature have taken a hit in the wake of the failed tax reform effort according to a new Utah Political Trends survey.

Lawmakers pushed through a massive tax overhaul package in a December special session, only to repeal the bill in the first week of the 2020 Legislature in the face of a successful referendum effort fueled by public opposition to the bill.

The new News survey conducted by Y2 Analytics finds:

  • 50% of likely voters in Utah approve of Gov. Gary Herbert’s job performance, while 35% disapprove. That approval has dropped 8 points from a survey conducted in October.
  • Just 32% of Utah voters give the Legislature positive approval ratings. In October, 43% of voters approved of the legislature’s job performance, which is an 11-point drop.
  • Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s approval has dropped 10-points from our October poll. Then, 52% of Utah voters gave him positive marks. Now, just 42% feel that way.

20200205 QAPPROVAL Herbert

20200205 QAPPROVAL Utah Legislature

20200205 QAPPROVAL Cox

Kelly Patterson of Y2 Analytics says it makes some sense that the legislative and executive branches of the state government would suffer some blowback following the hasty retreat on tax reform.

“When political leaders take on high-profile redistributive issues, they almost always pay a cost in the form of disapproval from the public. Redistributive issues are those where somebody wins and somebody loses. And when it comes to significant reforms, most people feel like they lose,” he said.

Herbert, who is not running for re-election in 2020, has seen his support fall among members of his own party as well as independent voters and Democrats. In October, 79% of self-described “strong” Republicans approved of his job performance. Now, just 65% say they approve, a 14-point drop. Support from moderate Republicans fell 5-points and approval from independent voters who lean Republican dropped 12-points from October.

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Similarly, support for the Republican-controlled legislature dropped significantly among members of their own party. In October, 59% of strong Republicans approved of how the Legislature was handling their jobs. That number has declined 9-points to 50%. Approval from moderate Republicans dropped 8-points, while independent voters who lean Republican declined a whopping 15-points.

20200205 QAPPROVAL Utah Legislature Party 

While Cox’s overall approval ratings have declined by double digits, his support among Republicans has not changed much. Among Democrats and independent voters, however, his approval has taken a significant hit. His approval among independent voters dropped 11 points from October, while his approval among Democratic voters fell by 20 points. Last month, Cox was roundly criticized when he compared abortion to slavery at the annual Eagle Forum convention. It’s not hard to imagine the drop in his approval is tied to those remarks.

20200205 QAPPROVAL Cox Party

Cox is running for the GOP nomination in the race to replace Herbert. The loss of support among Democrats and independents probably won’t hurt that quest as only Republicans can vote in the primary election.

The Utah Political Trends survey was conducted January 16-30, 2020 by Y2 Analytics among 2,296 likely Utah voters with a margin of error +/- 2.1% points. You can read more about the polling methodology here.

(Editor’s note: The October 2019 survey from Y2 Analytics gave respondents a “don’t know” option, while the new poll from January included a “neither approve nor disapprove” choice.)