If the June 28 primary election were held today, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert would sweep into the Utah Republican Party’s gubernatorial nomination, a just-completed UtahPolicy poll by Dan Jones & Associates finds.
Among all Utahns, Herbert leads his GOP challenger, Jonathan Johnson, 62 percent to 23 percent, with 15 percent undecided, the new poll shows.
The survey of 588 Utahns was completed Tuesday, indicating that so far Johnson has not been able to make inroads into Herbert’s popularity.
The numbers among all Utah residents are relevant because anyone over 18 years of age can still register as a Republican before the primary.
Only registered Republicans can vote in the party’s closed primary – even though it is paid for by all taxpayers.
Jones finds that among only Republicans, Herbert leads Johnson, 74-19 percent, with 8 percent still undecided.
However, political independents – those who are not registered in any political party – can register at the polls on June 28 as a Republican and vote in the gubernatorial party primary.
Among independents, Herbert leads Johnson 75-25 percent, with 21 percent undecided.
Among those who self-identified to Jones that they are Democrats, Herbert leads Johnson 49-29 percent, with 22 percent undecided.
The new numbers are not good for Johnson.
But as of Tuesday, he had not started running TV ads (Herbert has had TV ads up for more than a week).
Johnson finished ahead of Herbert in the late-April state Republican convention. Johnson got 55 percent of the delegate vote, and Herbert got 45 percent.
Thus, the new UPD poll shows, once again, that GOP delegates’ political preferences don’t reflect those of average Utahns, not even rank-and-file Republican Party members.
Many of the GOP delegates rank themselves as “very conservative” politically as other polls have shown.
But in his new poll, Jones finds that even rank-and-file “very conservative” Republicans don’t see the governor’s race like the delegates did.
Among those who self-identified to Jones they are “very conservative” politically, Herbert gets 67 percent support to Johnson’s 25 percent, with 8 percent saying they are undecided.
Yes, no doubt Herbert suffered in the convention over his support of SB54, the new dual-track candidate law that allows a candidate to get on his party’s primary ballot by bypassing convention delegates and getting signatures of registered party voters.
Herbert took the signature route this year and was certified to the primary no matter what happened at the convention.
Johnson did not gather signatures, throwing all his hopes before the 3,800 delegates.
But Herbert also chose to appear before the party delegates. Anti-SB54 fever was definitely part of the convention, with many delegates angry at candidates who took the signature route.
By getting more than 40 percent of the delegate vote, Herbert avoided his own party actually opposing him, and endorsing Johnson.
But Johnson clearly has not been able – at least not yet – to take advantage of winning most of the GOP delegate votes in the convention, nor translating that victory to support among rank-and-file GOP primary voters.
In fact, Herbert leads Johnson by double-digit percentage points in all but one demographic.
And, depending on your perspective, this can either be quite funny, or rather sad.
Jones finds that among those who said they are “very liberal” politically, Johnson gets 44 percent support to Herbert’s 22 percent support, with 34 percent undecided.
It seems the “very liberal” don’t even know who Johnson is – since he is running to the right of Herbert politically and certainly would not be a “very liberal” favorite if that group understood Johnson’s politics.
Jones also finds:
-- Those who say they are “very active” in the LDS Church favor Herbert, 72-19 percent. Republican politics in Utah are dominated by active Mormons.
Both Herbert and Johnson are active Mormons.
-- Those who said they are “moderate” politically, Herbert leads Johnson, 64-17 percent.
-- Those who said they agree with the Tea Party ideals, Herbert leads, 57-38 percent.
-- Among men, Herbert leads, 61-29 percent.
-- Among women, Herbert leads, 64-18 percent.
Johnson picked a female lieutenant governor running mate, Robyn Bagley, a leader in the school voucher/alternative education movement.
But Bagley hasn’t yet proven to help Johnson among women voters, even women GOP voters.
Herbert is running with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.
Johnson has six-and-a-half weeks to close the gap on Herbert.
There may be only one more Herbert/Johnson debate before the primary -- maybe two – for Johnson to grab headlines and possibly trip up Herbert with the media watching.
There are some issues out there that Johnson is hammering on, including Herbert’s fundraising techniques, taxes, Herbert’s time in public office, and the governor’s recent switch on two education issues – Common Core public school standards and a state-wide high student testing program, which Herbert has supported in the past.
But Herbert still has high job approval ratings (more on that in soon-to-be-released UtahPolicy poll stories), the state’s economy is booming, the unemployment rate is low, and the state has had revenue surpluses in the hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
Jones polled 588 adults from May 2-10. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.04 percent.