Poll: More Utahns disapprove of Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee than like them

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Ann and Mitt Romney, left, pose for a photo with Gov. Gary Herbert and his wife Jeanette, center, and Sen. Mike Lee and his wife Sharon, after Romney gave his Senate election victory speech at the Romney headquarters in Orem, on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Neither Romney nor Lee, who approach their elected offices very differently, enjoy majority support from statewide voters, according to a new Utah Policy poll.

Washington • More Utahns disapprove of Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee than approve of them, a new poll shows.

Romney may have won his seat with 62 percent of the vote in 2018, but only 46 percent of registered voters in the state approve of his handling of the job some 10 months into office, according to a survey by Utah Policy and Y2 Analytics. Just over half of Utahns (51 percent) give Romney bad marks.

Lee grabs 43 percent support from voters while 47 percent don't approve of his job performance, the poll shows.

The big question is how President Donald Trump impacts the senators' approval ratings.

The president has hovered below 50 percent approval in Utah since his election. The state may be one of the reddest in America but has never been enthralled with Trump.

Romney and Lee have charted different courses with the president, with Romney offering occasional criticism and then facing a backlash from Trump on Twitter. Lee, meanwhile, has been supportive and, for the most part, avoided chiding Trump’s actions.

Jason Perry, the head of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, says the poll isn’t surprising but what is interesting is how neither Lee or Romney are pulling in the support they would normally see from a GOP-dominated state.

“It’s not just about how Mitt Romney has approached the president,” Perry said. “It’s a reflection about how Utahns view what’s happening in Washington, D.C., more generally and their opinion about what’s happening in Congress.”

The poll was conducted Sept. 25-Oct. 8, meaning it coincided with the president’s attacks on Romney as well as the continuing story of the House launching an impeachment inquiry and Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. soldiers from Syria, a move derided by most members of Congress, including Romney, but supported by Lee.

Romney appears to earn good support from independently minded voters. Among those who identify as Republicans, but not strongly, he gets good marks from 45 percent. That compares to just 26 percent approval from those who say they are strong Republicans. In fact, the poll shows, 36 percent of strong Republicans disapprove of Romney’s performance.

Lee, on the other hand, enjoys good support from those who identify as strong Republicans, at 72 percent. Independents do not like Lee — only 36 percent approve of his performance.

Democrats really dislike Lee.

Some 76 percent of those who consider themselves strong Democrats disapprove of Lee and 62 percent of those who are not-so-strong Democrats say the same.

Lee’s office said Monday it doesn’t comment on every poll. Romney’s office declined to comment.

Perry says the polling matches the conventional wisdom in how Lee and Romney approach their offices.

“Mitt Romney clearly appeals to the more moderate elements of the Republican Party and the independents in the state of Utah,” Perry said. “It’s been a consistent theme through his campaign and through his election. And it’s not surprising that he has maintained that base support.”

The same can be said for Lee, who won election and reelection by touting his conservative bonafides, Perry added.

“Democrats have not been supportive of Mike Lee,” Perry said. “They weren’t before. And he’s not really been courting them since either. He is really identifying with conservative elements of the Republican Party in the state, and he has maintained their support.”