Washington • Most Utahns supported the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, though voters continue to be split on whether they back President Donald Trump, a new poll shows.
About 54 percent of registered voters said they approved of the Senate confirming Kavanaugh to the high court. Thirty-eight percent opposed the now-associate justice whose hearings were marred by allegations of sexual misconduct by three women and whose confirmation came with the lowest margin in modern Senate history.
The Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found equal support for Kavanaugh among men and women — 55 percent — while younger voters skewed against the nominee and older voters for him. Voters largely took partisan sides on Kavanaugh, who garnered the endorsement of self-identified “very conservative” residents (75 percent support) and opposition among “very liberal” voters (90 percent).
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who was a top cheerleader for Kavanaugh’s confirmation, wasn’t surprised that most Utahns backed Kavanaugh and predicted more Americans will favor Kavanaugh over time.
“After an unnecessarily partisan, divisive national debate, Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a victory for those who value fairness, process, and the presumption of innocence,” Hatch said in response to the poll. “His service on the Supreme Court, like his previous decades of public service, will convince even more of the American people that he is the right person for the job.”
Hatch, who has said Trump may be the best president ever, did not address Trump’s approval ratings in Utah in his statement.
The Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll found 51 percent of Utah voters supported Trump while 48 percent disagreed, making it a statistical tie with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.
But it's clear where Hatch stands.
"You’re making a real hell of a difference in this country,” Hatch told the president in the Oval Office on Thursday as Trump signed a bill that Hatch sponsored to reform music royalty laws.
While one of the reddest states in the union, Utah has not been so supportive of Trump, whose bombastic style had turned off some voters.
Trump won 45 percent of the Utah vote in 2016 against Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 27 percent. Independent and political newcomer Evan McMullin, a Utah native, picked up 21 percent.
The new poll’s findings mirror those of other surveys during Trump’s presidency.
A June poll by The Tribune and the Hinckley Institute showed just more than half of Utahns, 52 percent, approved of the president with 45 percent opposed to his job performance.
Morning Consult, a D.C.-based news outlet, found that of all the states, Trump’s net approval rating had dropped the most in Utah from his inauguration to now, with him sinking from 58 percent approval after he took office to half of voters now opposing him. The latter number is similar to the latest poll’s findings.
Jason Perry, the head of the Hinckley Institute, based at the University of Utah, said Trump continues to see consistent numbers out of Utah surveys but that they're not as good as other Republican presidents have seen.
“You have to look at the events that are happening in Washington, D.C., and the efforts of President Trump as a scale, and there are lots of positives in the minds of Utahns, including the Supreme Court and the economy. But on the other side of the scale are other things they are concerned about,” Perry said. “After time, the side of negatives starts to gets heavier. Utahns are now watching to see what happens.”
And Perry notes that voters ahead of the 2016 election said the Supreme Court was one of the major reasons they were voting for the presidential candidate of their choice.
“A majority wanted a conservative Supreme Court justice and they got that,” Perry said, “but the process itself made it not seem like the victory that Utah voters were hoping for.”
Daisy Thomas, the chairwoman of the Utah Democratic Party, said given the state's political leanings, the poll numbers would normally be much higher but Trump and Kavanaugh's style irritates and turns off more voters who would likely side with them.
“I think that for Utah embracing Trump is embracing lying and cheating and incivility and I don’t think most Utahns are OK with that,” Thomas said. “That’s probably, I think, why people here understand that civic participation in really important and being good community stewards. And they’re seeing that our Republicans who are in power, who can stand up to the policies that [Trump] is pushing, that are anti-family, anti-worker, anti-American really, they’re not seeing the kind of leadership we expect from our leaders.”
On Kavanaugh, Thomas added that Utahns would be more likely to support him if not for his forceful – some would say angry – response to the allegations by three women of sexual misconduct and how he blamed the Clintons, Democrats and the left for attacking his reputation.
“We don’t like the incivility; I think that’s a big deal,” Thomas said. “People who saw that were very put off regardless of the accusations and the allegations that were put forth, which were serious and absolutely should have been looked at because now that question will always linger.”
The Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll surveyed 607 registered voters in the state from Oct. 3-9. Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate during the polling.