Poll: Utahns Tend to Side with Gov. Herbert When There’s a Conflict on the Hill

Ever wonder why the GOP-controlled Utah Legislature seems more conservative than our Republican governor or even rank-and-file GOP voters in our state?

A new UtahPolicy poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates is very telling in that respect.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who defines himself as a conservative Republican, has been at loggerheads with some conservative legislators this 2015 Legislature, especially with House Republicans over his Healthy Utah Medicaid expansion plan.

So, UtahPolicy editors and Jones thought it would be interesting to see – in general terms – who Utah voters tend to stand with if there is a clear disagreement between Herbert and lawmakers.

In our latest poll, we asked who do you tend to agree with – Herbert or legislators – if there is a clear disagreement?

And the answers are interesting:

  • 48 percent of all voters said they tend to agree with Herbert.
  • Only 21 percent said they agree with legislators.
  • And 31 percent said they didn’t know, or that their answer depended on the disagreement at hand.


OK, that seems reasonable since voters tend to know the governor better than they know the Legislature, which is seen as an amorphous body and few Utahns can even name their state House or Senate member.

So the governor has an upper hand with the public as he faces off against lawmakers – often GOP leaders of his same party.

But when you break out Jones’ findings along partisan and political philosophy lines, you see something even more telling.

And these results show why the Legislature is, at its heart, more conservative than the average Utahn, even more conservative than rank-and-file Republicans.

Among those who told Jones they are Republicans, 50 percent tend to stand with Herbert and only 19 percent with the GOP-controlled Legislature. Thirty-two percent said they didn’t know.

However, when you take those who said they are “very conservative” in their political philosophy, only 35 percent said they agree mostly with Herbert, and 36 percent said they agreed more often with the Legislature. Twenty-nine percent of the “very conservative” said they didn’t know.

A real difference between the general rank-and-file Republicans and those who said they are “very conservative.”

And why would the “very conservative” tend to stand with the Legislature more than rank-and-file Republicans?

Obviously, because the “very conservative” believe the Legislature represents their views more often than does their Republican governor.

And so the GOP-controlled Legislature is perceived by Utahns to be more conservative than the Republican governor, more conservative than even their own Utah Republican Party members.

For those who said they are “somewhat conservative,” Herbert is favored 50-17 percent over the Legislature; the “moderates” stand with Herbert, 52-19 percent; “somewhat liberals” side with Herbert, 52-11 percent; and the “very liberals (yes, there are a few of those), stand with Herbert, 60-20 percent of the time; Jones found.

And these results play into any number of issues up at the Legislature, like who do you stand with more often, Republican voters or the GOP’s delegates and party bosses, and so on.

It is still unclear if Herbert will get a win or a loss over Healthy Utah.

And he certainly did not get all the money he wanted for public education this session, even though lawmakers have $739 million in surplus cash.

Ask any legislator and he or she will certainly tell you they vote as their constituents wish them to. But exactly who are standing behind the GOP legislators?

And Jones’ polling shows more often than not it is those who say they are “very conservative.”