Rep. Ben McAdams has highest approval rating of Utah’s delegation and Sen. Mitt Romney the highest disapproval, poll shows

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Rep. Ben McAdams meets with the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board Wednesday, April 24, 2019. A new poll shows the freshman lawmaker has the highest approval rating of his constituents out of Utah's federal delegation.

Forty-three percent of freshman Rep. Ben McAdams’ constituents “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the job he is doing in Congress, according to a new poll, giving the lone Democrat in Utah’s federal delegation the highest show of support among his Washington peers.

The highest rate of disapproval in the poll goes to freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, with 40% of voters objecting to his job performance compared with 38% who support him.

The numbers place Romney and Rep. Chris Stewart — 26% approve versus 33% disapprove — as the only members of Utah’s delegation whose ratings are currently underwater, according to results of the UtahPolicy.com/Y2 Analytics survey released Friday.

Both Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, and Stewart secured comfortable voting majorities — 62.6% and 56.1%, respectively — during the 2018 elections.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

McAdams was met with disapproval by 21% of respondents.

“Voters appreciate the bipartisan work Ben is doing in Congress,” said Andrew Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager. “He’s making good on his campaign promises and is focused on the issues that matter most to Utahns.”

Representatives of Romney and Stewart did not respond to a request for comment.

The poll was conducted between June 27 and July 17 and included responses from 2,608 registered Utah voters, drawn from a larger pool of recurring survey participants maintained by Y2 Analytics. Because of different sample sizes based on a statewide or district-specific constituencies, the margins of error range between roughly 2 and 5 percentage points.

Morgan Lyon Cotti, associate director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said the poll is unique by giving participants the option of responding “neither approve nor disapprove.” That neutral option could affect the results, she said, and makes it harder to compare with more binary polling methods and election results.

“Elections force you to choose,” she said. “Most people choose between those two major-party candidates.”

She added that voters may be evaluating McAdams and Romney based on different expectations. McAdams has emerged from a bruising campaign against Republican Mia Love and carefully toed the line of a moderate “Blue Dog” Democrat, she said, while Romney has been expected to act as both an elder statesman in the Senate and a political foil to President Donald Trump.

“When [Romney] doesn’t match those expectations, it’s not just a story in Utah,” Lyon Cotti said, “it’s a national headline.”

Demographic breakdowns in the poll also suggest that McAdams has more bipartisan appeal than his GOP counterparts. McAdams earned the approval of 18% of self-identified “strong" Republicans, while only 2% of “strong” Democrats approved of Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and 5% of “strong" Democrats approved of Stewart.

Kelly Patterson, a partner with Y2 Analytics, said the discrepancy between the results for McAdams and Romney may be indicative of Republicans who disagree with the senator’s overt criticism of Trump.

McAdams "can have his issues with Trump, and lots of people do,” Patterson said. “But Romney actually went into office with the idea that he was going to call out the president when he thought the president needed to be called out.”

The polling window ended the day after McAdams joined congressional Democrats and some Republicans in voting for a resolution condemning Trump for a series of a racist tweets directed at four congresswomen of color. Earlier that same week, McAdams had said the tweets were beneath the dignity of the presidency, while Romney criticized the president’s attacks as destructive, demeaning and disunifying.

Patterson also said the polling numbers may be indicative of the “tough” district that Stewart represents, which includes liberal-leaning Salt Lake City as well as a broad swath of rural, conservative areas stretching south along the state’s western edge to St. George.

“Whenever he takes a significant stand on any sort of issue,” Patterson said, “he’s going to get pushback.”

Other approval and disapproval ratings among the delegation include:

• Sen. Mike Lee: 39% approve; 37% disapprove.

• Rep. Rob Bishop: 34% approve; 34% disapprove.

• Rep. John Curtis: 31% approve; 19% disapprove.