LaVarr Webb

In times of emergency and crisis, governors and other top leaders have to make tough decisions. Not everyone will agree with those decisions, and they risk alienating portions of the electorate. Critics and political opponents will seek to take advantage.

Such is the situation today with Gov. Gary Herbert, who is showing strong leadership dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Happily for Herbert, he undertakes this most difficult challenge of his 11 years in office in excellent political shape. He enjoys a high approval rating and is the most popular elected official in the state. He has plenty of political capital to spend.

A recent Dan Jones & Associates survey commissioned by The Salt Lake Chamber shows that Herbert enjoyed a 64 percent favorability rating among voters just as the COVID-19 crisis hit, a higher rating than anyone else in elective office in Utah. Another important measure is that 63 percent of voters said the state is going in the right direction. Only 25 percent said the state is going in the wrong direction.

The survey was conducted Feb. 28 through March 11, using a sample of 798 registered voters. It has a possible error margin of plus/minus 3.47 percent.

Herbert will need all of the political goodwill, because he has been making difficult decisions and additional daunting decisions, no doubt, await. He has had to determine how much to shut down the state, and how prescriptive to be in enforcement. He has had to determine the balance between keeping citizens alive and healthy and shutting down life as we know it with accompanying economic destruction.

There has been a contingent of state legislators and local government leaders who believe the governor has been too prescriptive in his “stay at home” directives and he is unnecessarily disrupting lives and damaging the economy.

On the other hand, other citizens and leaders believe the governor hasn’t gone far enough and he should shut down the entire state, or at least the Wasatch Front.

These are difficult calls to make. No one still alive has gone through anything like this. While mistakes will be made, I believe Herbert is using good data and the advice of public health officials and emergency management experts to make the best decisions possible. He’s striking the right balance, even though it means significant economic stress and significant health challenges. 

You can see all of the Dan Jones & Associates topline poll results HERE.