Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is the most popular officeholder in the state, but he still doesn’t get 60 approval, a new UtahPolicy.com/Y2 Analytics poll finds.
And his second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox -- who is already running for the top spot next year -- is also above 50 percent in his approval rating, a good sign for his still-young campaign to replace the retiring Herbert.
Herbert has a 58-35 percent approval rating (58 percent of Utah voters “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the job he is doing as governor, 35 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disapproval rating), with 8 percent don’t know.
Considering Herbert has been in office 11 years, that 8 percent don’t know is kind of high for such a much-seen politician.
And while Herbert gets the highest approval rating -- at 58 percent -- in the new survey among the top officeholders in the state and federal offices, past governors have seen approval ratings in the 60th, even 70th, percentiles. (Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, comes in second in ranking, getting a 54-30 percent approval rating among his 4th District voters, Y2 found.)
Herbert himself has been in the 60th percentile in earlier polls for UtahPolicy.com.
But like voters in other states, Utahns are not feeling very well about their politicians these days.
President Donald Trump is in the process of being impeached by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House, Congress is getting almost nothing done. And while the stock market and economy are doing well, Americans see presidential stumbling almost every day, along with record-setting, huge federal budget deficits.
Cox, who began his campaign in early summer, has a 51-18 percent approval rating. But 30 percent of Utah voters don’t know how he’s doing as lieutenant governor, which basically means they don’t know him.
Cox clearly has a lot of work to do on his name I.D.
And he could be facing former GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman -- who has just returned to the state after serving as U.S. ambassador to Russia -- and is seriously considering a run in 2020 for his old job.
Huntsman says he’ll announce in two or three weeks whether he’s in or out of the race.
UtahPolicy.com didn’t poll on Huntsman since he is not in office and the poll was a job approval for current state and federal officeholders.
Here are some of the interesting demographics on both Herbert and Cox in the new survey:
Herbert is safe inside his own Utah Republican Party:
-- “Strong” Republicans approve of him, 79-18 percent; “not so strong” Republicans like him, 72-12 percent; and “strong” conservatives approve of him, 74-23 percent.
-- A third of “strong” Democrats even like him.
-- And half of all independents give Herbert an acceptable approval rating.
Cox’s issue with Republicans isn’t likability, but simply being known.
The Utah Political Trends survey finds that 27 percent of “strong” Republicans -- likely the largest group voting on him in the June 2020 Republican closed primary -- don’t know who he is.
-- Likewise, 39 percent of the “not so strong” Republicans don’t know the lieutenant governor.
-- Cox gets 57 percent and 56 percent approval ratings from both groups, respectively.
-- Cox’s rating among those who said they are “strong” conservatives is 50-20 percent, with 30 percent not knowing who he is.
This is not a bad rating for Cox, who, until he started running for governor, had a pretty good reputation among some groups conservatives wouldn’t embrace, like Utah’s LGBTQ community.
Cox has clearly been talking tougher on some core conservative principles, like anti-socialism and anti-abortion, over this past summer -- looking to shore up his right-wing credentials.
His campaign theme is a “Conservative for Utah,” for example.
You see some of Cox’s more moderate support among those who said they are “strong” and “not so strong” Democrats.
Among the first group, he has a 48-24 percent approval rating, the latter a 47-23 percent approval rating.
Those are very good numbers among members of his opposing political party -- and no doubt reflect some of Cox’s personal appeal to accepting those outside of Utah’s Mormon/conservative social values.
But Democratic votes won’t help him in the GOP primary, which is closed to only registered Republicans.
That Democratic acceptance is higher than his boss, Herbert, who has an approval rating of 22-74 percent among “not so strong” Democrats and 33-57 among “strong” Democrats.
Both men have gender gaps -- men like them more than do women.
-- 53 percent of women approve of Herbert, while 62 percent of men do.
-- And 45 percent of women approve of Cox, while 57 percent of men do.
For Cox, this may be one reason just recently he formed a special group -- Women for Utah -- on women and family issues and female turn-out-the-vote headed by his wife, Abby.