Washington • About 62% of Utahns approve of Gov. Gary Herbert’s handling of the outbreak of the coronavirus while fewer than half say the same about President Donald Trump, a new poll shows.
Utahns say they trust their local government (85%) and their state government (83%) more than they trust Trump or Congress (both at 55%) in dealing with the crisis that the disease has caused so far.
That’s a trend found nationwide, where Americans say they approve of their local and state leaders more than the federal response, according to the poll by Harvard, Northeastern and Rutgers universities.
In each state, residents give better marks to their governor than to Trump, the poll shows.
Trump has come under increased criticism for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has now cost the lives of more than 60,000 Americans. Poll numbers nationally show Trump sliding with voters.
In Utah, though, residents seem more supportive of the response from their leaders. Herbert is one of seven governors who did not issue a stay-at-home order, though he has directed Utahns to do so without the threat of criminal penalty for violation. Forty-six Utahns have died so far from COVID-19.
“Local control is a hallmark of American politics and the reality is that people trust their local elected officials because each state has unique issues and challenges that many do not think can be properly addressed in Washington," says Jason Perry, the director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.
“Governor Herbert received high marks from Utahns because he approached the pandemic with a local lens,” Perry added. “The directives he implemented were perceived by many as necessary to help Utahns protect Utahns.”
The governor’s office didn’t comment on the poll numbers but lauded Utahns for their efforts to combat the virus’s spread.
"We appreciate the remarkable way Utahns have responded to directives and orders to protect public health and safety, proving once again that we are stronger working together,” said Herbert spokeswoman Anna Lehnardt.
The survey, released Thursday, also found broad approval for actions taken by local leaders to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
In Utah, residents somewhat or strongly support limiting restaurants to carryout food (87%), closing schools (89%), canceling sports events (90%), requiring most businesses to shutter (75%) and asking residents to stay home (92%).
The governor has ordered some of the restrictions lifted starting Friday, including allowing in-restaurant dining with some restrictions and allowing hair salons and gyms to reopen.
Meanwhile, about 18% of Utahns report being laid off or losing a job during the outbreak.
And the stress of the crisis has Utahns worried about the impacts of the virus and the efforts to curtail the spread.
Nearly 70% of residents say they are somewhat or very concerned about the financial hardships and 48% fear not being able to get access to health care if needed. About 40% worry about losing their job.
Beyond those concerns, most Utahns (54%) say they're worried about contracting the coronavirus themselves and 75% fear a family member will be infected.
The poll found that Utahns are more split when it comes to the government using cellphone data to trace contacts of people with the coronavirus. Some 52% say they somewhat or strongly disagree with that suggestion while 46% said they’d support it.
Results are mixed among residents on when their state should reopen and resume business activity. Some 9% say it should be done immediately, 17% want it to happen in the next two weeks, 19% in two to four weeks, 17% in four to six weeks, 19% in six to eight weeks and 18% after eight weeks.
The universities’ poll, which surveyed 22,912 people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to ensure a large enough sample, was conducted from April 17 to April 26. The Utah responses, for the most part, have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, though some breakout data has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 or 6 percentage points.