Approval Ratings for Gov. Herbert and the State Legislature

This high approval among “strong” Republicans should provide the governor with some reassurance as Republicans hold caucuses and choose delegates

Governor Gary Herbert’s approval among Utah voters is at a healthy 68%, according to a new Utah Voter Poll. His approval is especially strong among self-identified “strong” Republicans, with 94% expressing a favorable view (see the full question wording below). Several Republican candidates have lined up to challenge Governor Herbert’s renomination. This high approval among “strong” Republicans should provide the governor with some reassurance as Republicans hold caucuses and choose delegates for the convention in April.  As our previous work on Republican convention delegates demonstrates, “strong” Republicans are typically a large majority of convention delegates (62% in 2010).

At the same time, approval among Republicans could be seen a bit tepid. Among self-identified “strong Republicans,” only 15% “strongly approve” of Governor Herbert’s performance, with 78% saying that they “approve” (these don’t add to 94% because of rounding). The pattern is similar among “not-so-strong Republicans” and “independent leaning Republicans.” Among these two groups, 17% “strongly approve” while 72% merely “approve.”

Self-identified Democrats generally disapprove of Governor Herbert’s performance, although 35% of Democrats approve (this combines “strong Democrats” and  “not-so-strong Democrats”).

Meanwhile, approval of the Utah legislature is 20 points below the governor, with 48% approval.  Not surprisingly, the most enthusiastic supporters of a Republican-dominated legislature are “strong Republicans,” of whom 81% approve. Meanwhile, only 57% of “not-so-strong Republicans” and “independent leaning Republicans” approve of the legislature’s performance, with a striking 43% disapproving. Democrats overwhelmingly disapprove of the Utah legislature with only 15% expressing a favorable view.

If support among “strong Republicans” wins renomination, then Republican legislators should take comfort from these numbers. However, the poor showing among all other groups may indicate an opening for Democratic legislative candidates able to demonstrate crossover appeal.

On the other hand, political scientists who have studied congressional approval will tell you that approval of Congress as a collective group is always lower than approval for  individual members of Congress.  The same pattern probably holds for the Utah Legislature.  Individual legislators are typically elected because they fit their districts reasonably well.  When they gather as a group, they can do things collectively that lead to approval ratings for the whole group that are lower that those for most of the individual members.  In that light, a 48% approval rating is not too bad.

Methodological notes

The Utah Voter Poll (UVP) is a sample of actual Utah voters who were invited to join an online panel as part of the Utah Colleges Exit Poll.  Like all exit poll participants, UVP panel members were selected via a probability sample of Utah voters who vote at a polling place on election day. This version of the UVP was fielded online from February 27th to March 11th. 504 respondents answered the questions addressed here, producing a margin of error of roughly 4 percentage points. The margin is larger when looking at a subgroup; when looking only at Republicans, for example, the margin of error is about 7 percentage points. The margin of error is also affected by the complex sampling design and is actually different for each question, depending on the distribution of answers.

Following is the exact question wording used along with results in parentheses:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Gary Herbert is doing as Utah Governor?”: Strongly approve (9.7%), approve (58.0%), disapprove (25.0%), strongly disapprove (7.4%).

“Do you approve or disapprove of how the Utah State Legislature is handling its job?”: Strongly approve (2.1%), approve (45.6%), disapprove (29.1%), strongly disapprove (23.2%).

“Generally speaking, do you consider yourself to be a(n): Strong Democrat (9.5%), not so strong Democrat (5.1%), independent leaning Democrat (12.6%), independent (11.0%), independent leaning Republican (22.6%), not so strong Republican (12.99%), strong Republican (22.2%), other (4%), don’t know (0%).”

Note: Thanks to Adam Brown for his help in producing this post.

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About Quin Monson

Quin Monson is Associate Professor of Political Science and a Senior Scholar with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University.
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