Despite slipping numbers nationwide, President Donald Trump’s approval rating has stayed fairly steady in Utah since he took office seven months ago.
And it continues to hover below 50 percent.
“I think Utah voters are still holding their noses and not fully embracing Trump but not turning their backs on him either,” said David Magleby, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.
A Utah Policy poll published Thursday shows that 46 percent of surveyed Utahns approve of Trump, while 50 percent do not. That closely tracks with survey results since Trump’s inauguration.
In January, 46 percent of respondents in a Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll viewed the incoming president favorably. In March, that grew slightly to 54 percent before returning to 48 percent in July.
That consistency isn’t surprising for a majority-Republican state like Utah, Magleby said.
“Party trumps Trump,” he explained with a laugh, suggesting it’s “further evidence that partisanship is alive and well.”
The timing of the most recent survey, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5 among 608 registered Utah voters, coincided with increasing tension between the United States and North Korea, phase-out of an Obama-era program protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston and ongoing investigations into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
None of that seems to have hurt him much in the state.
No matter what Trump does, believes Tim Chambless, who works with the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah, he’ll likely always have a “solid 25 percent base” that approves of him — just like Richard Nixon did even as he resigned.
With no criminal indictments against Trump and with most of the “lightning rods” in his administration having left the White House (including Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Michael Flynn), Chambless said Utah voters are clinging to “a hopefulness that things will get better.”
They’d certainly prefer Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman, he acknowledged, but they’ll still try to support the president, albeit cautiously.
Trump won 45.5 percent of the state’s vote in the election, the lowest of any modern Republican presidential nominee, with independent candidate Evan McMullin siphoning some of his support. The recent Utah Policy poll, with a margin of error of 3.97 percentage points, mirrors that turnout.
“The president’s support in Utah — and to an extent nationwide — is soft,” Chambless said. “He’s had really no honeymoon period at all.”
In a new Gallup poll released this week, 37 percent of Americans approve of Trump. That nationwide rating has been somewhat turbulent, dropping down most recently from 42 percent.