Washington • More than half of Utahns now approve of President Donald Trump, but not his immigration policies or his leadership style.
Some 52 percent of registered voters give Trump good marks overall while 45 disapprove, a new Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows.
Trump’s approval rating has hovered around 50 percent since he was elected, though deep red Utah hasn’t been nearly as friendly as it usually is to a Republican president. He won the state by fewer votes than any GOP candidate in modern history.
Supporters say the Utah approval could be even higher, but the poll was conducted during a barrage of news coverage and criticism over children being separated from their parents at America’s southern border, a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.
“Given that that was going on at the same time the poll was taking place, that’s a very good sign for the president,” said Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, who says there’s also a “shy Trump support” that exists because people are afraid to publicly back him.
Fifty percent of Utahns disapproved of the president’s immigration policies and 47 percent approved in the poll that was conducted June 11-18, ending before Trump reversed position and halted the separation of illegally immigrating families.
A bigger majority objected to the president’s leadership style: 57 percent disapproved and 38 percent approved.
Still, Hughes, who met with Trump officials in Washington on Friday, said the president — though “atypical in terms of what we’ve had as president before” — is getting good marks from Utahns for keeping his campaign promises.
“We’re seeing a strong economy,” Hughes said. “His attention to rural issues is being felt. Utahns are watching this president and there are people who are very happy he’s living up to his promises.”
Trump is faring better in Utah than nationally, where his approval averages around 44 percent with 51 percent disapproving, according to Real Clear Politics. The president, who won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, has struggled to rise above 50 percent nationally since elected.
Trump’s approval in the Beehive State has ticked up slightly since a January Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll, which found 48 percent approving and 49 disapproving.
Even if he’s doing better in the state, he still doesn’t have the support Utah would normally give a GOP president at this time in his term.
Then-President George W. Bush earned a 66 percent approval rating in Utah after about 18 months in office.
Utah Republicans’ support propped up the Trump approval ratings — with 73 percent giving him good marks, according to the new poll. Democrats and independents in the state panned his performance by wide margins: 62 percent disapproval among unaffiliated voters (the second largest group in the state) and 92 percent disapproval among Democrats.
Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he, like Hughes, believes there’s a bigger base for the president than the poll picked up.
“I think he’s even more popular than that,” Chaffetz, a Fox News contributor, said. “People may not give up their name in a poll, but his policies are widely popular. People care how you do things in Utah, more than other states. They like what he’s doing. They may not appreciate the style.”
That’s borne out in the poll, which showed voter approval dropped below a majority not only on his leadership style, but also his relationship with Congress.
But Utahns do like some of Trump’s actions.
The Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll found 57 percent of Utahns back his economic policies (35 percent disapproved). And half of those surveyed give him good marks on foreign policy, compared with 43 percent who oppose him.
On Trump’s immigration policies, where Utahns overall are polarized, Republicans supported him by a 2-1 margin, but independent voters opposed him by that large margin. Only 4 percent of Democrats gave him good marks in this area, while 95 percent disapproved.
In every policy area polled — from the economy to foreign affairs — more independent and Democratic voters disapproved than approved of the Trump administration.
The poll shows Trump faring better with older voters (58 percent of voters older than 65 like him) but not so well with younger Utahns (53 percent of 18-34-year-olds disapprove).
Matthew Burbank, an associate professor of political science at the University of Utah, which houses the Hinckley Institute, said Republicans are continuing to support Trump, but reluctantly.
“Ordinarily if we’re talking about a Republican president, we’d be looking at 60-70 percent,” Burbank said. “He’s markedly lower than that.”
But the economy is thriving, especially in Utah, and Trump is benefiting.
“It’s exactly what we’d expect,” Burbank said. “Where Utahns are dissatisfied: They don’t think Trump is very presidential. His approach to things. The constant fights that he’s picking. The tweets. The statements that don’t sound calculated or presidential. All of that rubs people the wrong way. But the economy is good.”
The poll, conducted by the Hinckley Institute, interviewed 654 registered voters in Utah and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.