(Image: Shutterstock)Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has hit the stratosphere of approval ratings by Utahns – almost three out of four give him a favorable rating, a new UtahPolicy.com poll finds.

But here is a number that may be even more startling:

Almost two-thirds of Utahns give the Utah Legislature a favorable job approval rating.

For an amorphous, partisan legislative body to get that high of a rating is, well, stunning.

I’ve been writing poll stories about Dan Jones & Associates surveys for 40 years.

And I don’t recall a time when the Utah Legislature got such a high approval rating.

Indeed, this group of 104 part-time lawmakers – Republicans and Democrats -- can feel good about their status in the state.

Some of it may be that Utah is a well-managed state that always balances its budget and has little debt. That stands in stark contrast to the U.S. Congress, which is basically failing.

But still.

Here are some of Jones numbers on both Herbert and the GOP-controlled Legislature:

  • By an impressive 73-21 percent, Herbert, who is in his ninth year in office, finds that Utahns “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the job he’s  doing.

  • Only 6 percent don’t have an opinion of him.

  • 63 percent give the Legislature a favorable job approval rating.

  • 30 percent disapprove of the job lawmakers are doing.

  • While 8 percent don’t know.

 

For a lawmaking body, only an “8 percent don’t know” is, in and of itself, unusual. It shows Utahns are paying attention to what lawmakers – now with only a week left in their 2018 general session – are doing.

Herbert is a Republican.

And the Legislature has super-majorities of Republicans in both the House and Senate – over three-fourths.

So it would make sense that Utah Republicans would like both Herbert and the Legislature. But, the internal numbers are remarkable.

  • Republicans give the governor an impressive 89-7 percent approval rating.

  • They like the Utah Legislature, as well – 81 percent of Republicans approve of the job their party members are doing, while only 9 percent disapprove.

  • Political independents – who don’t belong to any political party -- approve of Herbert, 66-11 percent.

  • Independents approve of the Legislature, 57-37 percent.

Herbert scores well among Democrats, but their feelings toward the Legislature are a little cooler.

  • 40 percent of Utah Democrats – members of his opposing party – approve of the job the governor is doing.

  • 52 percent of Democrats disapprove of him.

  • 69 percent of Democrats DISAPPROVE of the job the Republican Legislature is doing.

  • But 27 percent of Democrats – more than one-fourth – approve of the job the GOP-controlled Legislature is doing.

As you would expect, those who told Jones they are “very” or “somewhat” conservative in their political philosophy really, really like both the governor and the Legislature – running between 91 percent and 77 percent.

And, as you would expect, those who told Jones they are “very” or “somewhat” liberal, don’t like Herbert or the Legislature well.

Still, 48 percent of the “somewhat” liberal group approves of the job Herbert is doing. Remarkable, really.

Finally, Herbert is an active Mormon, as are upwards of 80 percent of lawmakers, including a few Democrats.

  • “Very active” members of the LDS faith approve of Herbert, 89-6 percent.

  • And active Mormons like the Legislature, 76- 15 percent.

What do these high approval numbers mean for Herbert and lawmakers in this 2018 election year?

Herbert is not on the ballot this year. And he’s already said he won’t seek another term in 2020.

Still, such high ratings could mean Herbert can take some political chances – like sign a bill that does away with the death penalty in Utah, or support some kind of additional gun restrictions such as background checks on firearm purchases, or even raise the age to 21 for adults to buy assault rifles.

For GOP lawmakers it means something even more.

All 75 House seats are up for election this year, along with 15 Senate seats.

While across the nation, many politicos are predicting bad elections for Republicans – with the chance Republicans could even lose control of the U.S. House – these poll numbers show Republicans should have no such worries in Utah.

But even further, as the 2018 Legislature rushes to an end next Thursday, Republicans in the House and Senate can boldly push back on a radical clique inside their own state Republican Party Central Committee – and slap them down over meddling with the party’s political status.

Rank-and-file Republican voters clearly like their GOP lawmakers – by a huge 81 percent approval rating.

It also means the GOP Legislature can go forward with plans for a small personal income tax cut, a large reform in the corporate income tax, pump more than $580 million dollars into the state budget without concern about fiscal conservative backlash, and take any other number of actions without worrying in the least that their re-elections are in doubt this year. UtahPolicy.com had the scoop on those plans in an article published on Wednesday.

Jones polled 609 adults from Feb. 9-16. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.