The Utah Legislature’s job approval rating among voters has taken a nosedive over the last year, a new UtahPolicy.com/Y2 Analytics survey shows.
Today, 41 percent of Utah voters “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the job the 104 part-time legislators are doing, Y2 finds.
But 48 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disapprove of the job lawmakers are doing.
And 9 percent don’t know.
In March of 2018, just after the general session ended that year, a UtahPolicy.com poll conducted by a different pollster found that 63 percent of Utahns approved of the Legislature’s job.
While differences in polling methodology may have accounted for some of the decline in the new survey, a 22-percentage-point drop in approval rating is clearly a significant number over the last 18 months.
The reasons are likely clear:
First, in the 2018 November election voters approved of three major citizen initiatives that legislators had previously refused to act on.
So, voters decided to legalize medical marijuana, give full Medicaid expansion, and create an independent redistricting commission -- all things lawmakers had specifically refused to do.
Secondly, the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert then decided to CHANGE two of the initiatives, or in other words override what voters had decided to do.
In a December 2018 special session legislators changed the medical marijuana law to something acceptable to leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- which had opposed passage of Prop 2.
In the 2019 general session, legislators changed the full Medicaid expansion to a less costly scheme, which depended on waivers from the Trump administration that the state later did not get.
The GOP majority did not change Prop 4, the independent redistricting commission, although GOP leaders say it should/must be amended at some later date.
So, all together the Legislature overrode the voters’ decisions, and no doubt that has been a big part of the institution’s drastic fall from favor, as reflected in the new survey.
Here are some of the demographic breakouts:
-- Women dislike the Legislature more than do men; Women give the House and Senate just a 37 percent approval rating, not good.
Men give it a 48 percent approval rating, much better.
-- Republicans, of course, like what the majority-GOP Legislature is doing, 67-23 percent.
But, still, a quarter of Utah “strong” Republicans disapprove of what their party members are doing in running the Legislature.
-- Independents disapprove of the Legislature, 56-37 percent.
-- As expected, “strong” Democrats disapprove of the GOP-controlled Legislature, 84-13 percent.
Before LDS Church leaders came out against Prop 2, the medical marijuana initiative, by far most faithful Mormons in Utah were in favor of it, UtahPolicy polls showed.
Those numbers shifted as more Mormons learned of their faith’s opposition.
Still, the initiative passed in the November 2018 election -- lawmakers coming back into session just days later to change it.
Y2 finds that today, 57 percent of “very active” LDS Church members approve of the job the Legislature is doing, while 27 percent -- or one in four -- disapprove of the Legislature.
Those who told Y2 they have no religion disapprove of the Legislature, 70-26 percent.