Poll: Leavitt, Matheson, Romney Still Get High Approval Ratings from Utahns

Mike LeavittAhhh, the fickle finger of fate.

For a time, a person may be known and loved by nearly all, and then time eats it away.

But for a few Utahns – once well known – they are still held in high regard by citizens, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.

Former GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt, for example.

A new survey by Dan Jones & Associates finds that 68 percent of Utahns hold Leavitt, who won three gubernatorial races starting in 1992, in high regard.

Same for former Democratic U.S. House member Jim Matheson, who has a 66 percent favorability rating across the state.

And former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has moved into Utah permanently, your numbers are off the charts, big fella!

Jones finds that 74 percent of Utahns hold Romney in high regard.

Romney will likely never run for high office in Utah.

Leavitt, a slight maybe.

But Beehive State politicos should keep an eye on Matheson, who retired from his 4th Congressional District seat several years ago to become a D.C. lobbyist.

Matheson’s 66 percent favorability rating statewide could fuel the fire to run for the U.S. Senate or, more likely, governor in the years ahead.

Matheson is only 56 years old, and still young enough to make a career in the Senate, certainly young enough to serve a term or two as governor.

Jones finds:

  • 68 percent of all Utahns hold a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of Leavitt, who resigned his seat in 2003 to join the George W. Bush administration.
  • 17 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Leavitt, 8 percent recognize his name but have no opinion of him, only 5 percent have never heard of him, and 2 percent don’t know.

Leavitt’s standing in the community is important for one main reason: Count My Vote.

Leavitt was a founder and major financial backer of the 2014 citizen initiative petition that would have done away with the power of party delegates in picking candidate – throwing all such decisions into a party primary election if a candidate could get a certain number of voter signatures.

The state GOP just this last weekend reaffirmed its commitment to fight SB54 – the resulting legislative compromise to CMV – even further.

If it becomes necessary for CMV to start a new petition drive in 2018 or soon thereafter, Leavitt’s popularity among Utahns could be a big factor in its success.

  • 76 percent of Utah Republicans have favorable opinions of Leavitt – again, a big plus in any partisan-like battle over public policy ahead.
  • Even 76 percent of those who say they are “very conservative” hold a good opinion of Leavitt.

Matheson held two different congressional seats, the pre-2011 2ndDistrict and one term in the new redistricted 4th District.

So much of Salt Lake County and counties to the south have had a chance to support Matheson at the polls. Northern Utah has not voted on him.

Still, Jones finds statewide:

  • Two-thirds of Utahns have a favorable opinion of Matheson, a son of the late Democratic Gov. Scott M. Matheson.
  • 17 percent have an unfavorable opinion, 11 percent recognize his name but have no opinion of him, 4 percent have never heard of him, and 2 percent don’t know.

Matheson had to draw from independent voters and even a few Republicans to win seven terms to the U.S. House, always running as a moderate-to-conservative “independent” Democrat.

  • 64 percent of Utah Republicans have a favorable opinion of Matheson, 68 percent of political independents same thing.
  • In fact, even 73 percent of those who say they are “somewhat conservative” in their politics have a favorable opinion of Matheson.

No Democrat has won the governor’s race since his father’s re-election in 1980. Jim’s older brother, Scott Jr., also a Democrat, lost the governor’s race in 2004. But Jim won re-election that year to his old 2nd District seat.

Romney is much loved in Utah, period.

Leavitt helped appoint Romney the head of the successful 2002 Utah Winter Olympics. Romney returned to his home state of Massachusetts the following year to win one term as a moderate GOP governor.

He then failed to get the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, won the nomination in 2012 but lost to President Barack Obama.

He has owned homes in Utah off and one for decades. Buy recently declared Utah his permanent residence. Several of his sons live here.

And it is the Romney name that may mean the most now – as son Josh considered a run for the U.S Senate, even governor, in 2016, but decided to stay out of both races.

There could be an open U.S. Senate seat in 2018, an open governor’s seat in 2020, for other Romneys to consider.

Mitt Romney endorsed Count My Vote in 2014. Again, if a new petition drive is started, a Mitt Romney endorsement (even campaigning for it) could be a blow to the state GOP opposition over the next few years.

  • 88 percent of Utah Republicans have a favorable opinion of Mitt Romney, 49 percent of Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of him, while 65 percent of independents have a favorable view of the former presidential candidate.

Jones polled 588 Utahns from May 2-10. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.04 percent.