Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s COVID-19 response approval slips below 50%, new survey shows

New surveys have found that fewer than half of Utahns are happy with Gov. Gary Herbert’s handling of the coronavirus but that state residents are among the most likely in the nation to say they’ll get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Herbert’s slipping approval ratings on the pandemic matches a nationwide decline in support for the way governors are managing the virus, according to a report by academics at Northeastern University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University.

Over the summer, Utah experienced a surging number of coronavirus cases, with the state’s epidemiologist in late June warning that a “complete shutdown” might be necessary if the virus continued its rapid spread. The number of new infections declined through August but has shot back up in the last few days, a spike driven by Utah County college students at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University.

Surveys conducted by the consortium of universities indicated that approval of Herbert’s coronavirus response fell from 60% in late April to 44% in late August. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points for the April poll and plus or minus 8 percentage points for the August survey.

Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune

Researchers at the universities surveyed more than 21,000 people online across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. They used state-level representative quotas for race and ethnicity, age and gender, according to a report. Overall, governors have seen approval for their COVID-19 response drop from 64% in late April to 48% in late August, according to the surveys with a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.

The group of academics has been collaborating on a series of polls about public attitudes related to the pandemic. Another recently released survey found that 64% of Utahns say they are somewhat likely or extremely likely to get a vaccine, tying for the fifth-highest in the nation behind Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota.

Utahns have also grown more unhappy with President Donal Trump’s management of the public health crisis over the past several months, according to the researchers. Trump’s approval number went from 45% in late April to 38% in late August, the survey showed.

Still, Utahns are slightly more favorable toward the president than they were in late July, when only 32% liked the way he was handling the pandemic. Trump’s approval ratings in Utah had margins of error of 6 percentage points in late April, 6 percentage points in late July and 7 percentage points in late August.

Nationwide approval for Trump’s performance on COVID-19 has also fallen since April but bounced back slightly from a late July low to 34% by the August survey.