Going into the 2015 Utah Legislature, Gov. Gary Herbert and the 104 part-time lawmakers should feel pretty good about themselves, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.

Whether voters will feel as good about their state leaders after the upcoming 45 days -- well, that remains to be seen. Lawmakers convene their general session Monday.

In a new poll, Dan Jones & Associates finds that among all registered voters Herbert has a job approval rating of 74 percent.

That’s pretty good historically, although a few past governors have ranged into the 80th percentile in job approval.

Only 18 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job the Republican Herbert is doing, Jones found.

Because they are a big amorphous group, and the media tends to make them look like goofballs at times, the legislators’ job approval rating rarely matches individual officeholders’, Jones has found over 40 years of polling in Utah.

Still, the latest poll shows that 54 percent of voters approve of the job lawmakers are doing. Like Herbert’s, that too is a good rating for the Legislature.

 

There hasn’t been a tax increase in years, the economy is growing and state officials enter the new general session with more than $600 million in one-time and ongoing revenue surpluses.

Jones also asked job approval ratings for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who was appointed by Herbert his second-in-command about a year ago when former LG Greg Bell resigned.

And Jones asked how voters feel about how their local city governments are doing.

Cox clearly needs to get some more media face time.

Asked who the “politician Spencer Cox” is, only 40 percent said they recognized his name – 60 percent didn’t.

 

Of those 40 percent, only half correctly identified him as the state’s lieutenant governor. Thirty-nine percent didn’t know what office he held and the rest mentioned some other office, like U.S. senator. (Oh, dream on, Spencer.)

Still, 48 percent of voters like the job Cox is doing as LG, with his fellow Republicans giving him a 58 percent approval rating.

Forty-two percent of voters and 38 percent of Republicans didn’t know what kind of job Cox was doing.

Democrats and political independents didn’t know much about Cox at all.

Herbert has already announced that he’ll seek re-election in 2016, with Cox as his LG candidate.

A number of GOP gubernatorial hopefuls were no doubt disappointed by Herbert’s plans.

A few Republicans are still looking at the race, like Overstock.com chairman of the board Jonathan Johnson. (Overstock.com is a UtahPolicy sponsor.)

Herbert is seen as a political tough nut to crack in his re-election.

The new Jones’ poll on Herbert shows why.

Eighty-nine percent of GOP voters said they have a favorable opinion of Herbert and the job he’s doing.

That’s a big number.

As mentioned before in UtahPolicy, if SB54 stands up both in the Legislature and in a federal lawsuit brought by the state Republican Party, come 2016 there will be a dual-track pathway to an open Republican Party primary.

Herbert has said, if the law stands, he will take BOTH paths – he’ll go before the 2016 state GOP convention seeking delegate support.

He’ll also gather 28,000 signatures of registered voters statewide and advance to the GOP primary in that manner, no matter what happens to him in the convention.

Thus, Herbert, one way or the other, would appear on the ballot – and those GOP voters measured in Jones’ new poll would get to vote on him.

An 89 percent approval rating, if it keeps up over the next 18 months, would put him in good stead.

Of course, SB54 calls for an open GOP primary, meaning political independents could vote in it also.

Jones finds that 73 percent of independents – or three out of four – like the job Herbert is doing as governor.

Only 5 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of independent voters disapprove of Herbert’s job performance.

Registered Democrats wouldn’t be able to vote in the 2016 GOP primary. But that really doesn’t matter, anyway.

Democrats are the minority party in Utah, having their lowest numbers in the Utah House and Senate in decades. The last Democrat elected governor was the late Scott M. Matheson in 1980 – 34 years ago.

Only 37 percent of Democrats approve of Herbert’s job approval, 54 percent disapprove.

Finally, Jones finds that 74 percent of registered voters approve of the job their local city government is doing, 19 percent disapprove.

Those numbers hold up as about the same when Republicans, Democrats and political independents are broken out, Jones found.

The new survey was conducted for last week’s pre-legislative conference sponsored by the Exoro consulting group and Zions Bank.

The questions were put together by Utah State University political and public policy professors, conducted by Jones.

After the USU professors presented some of the results at the conference, the rest of the questions were turned over to UtahPolicy as part of newsletter’s monthly polling by Jones.

The poll was of 715 registered voters statewide with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.66 percent.