Utahns view Trump more favorably than Mike Lee or Mitt Romney

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) President Donald Trump speaks from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House to a crowd of supporters, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Washington.

President Donald Trump’s approval rating has crested above 50% in Utah. However, the state’s two Republican senators are struggling with how voters see them.

A statewide survey from Y2 Analytics found that 53% of Utahns say they approve of the way that Trump is handling his job. That includes 37% who say they “strongly” approve and 15% who “somewhat” approve, while 48% of respondents say they disapprove of Trump, including 41% who say they feel “strongly” that he is not doing a good job.

Trump is also viewed favorably by 52% of Utahns while 47% see him unfavorably.

It’s no secret that Utahns view Trump skeptically. He carried Utah in 2016 but did not get a majority of the vote, only pulling 45.5%. He currently has a 10-point lead over Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a state that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 by 48 points.

Trump’s approval and favorability ratings have hovered around the 50% mark since his win four years ago, but they’ve recently been on the upswing. An August survey gave him a 55% job approval rating. In September, it was 56%.

“His numbers are now at or close to the same where they’ve been for months,” said Y2 Analytics pollster Quin Monson. “The die has been cast on Trump among Utah voters. His approval ratings budge barely on anything. There’s very little he could do to cause a shift in opinion.”

It’s notable that the majority of respondents say they “strongly” approve or disapprove of Trump’s job performance. The same with whether they view him favorably or unfavorably. That suggests Trump is a very polarizing figure, even in majority-Republican Utah. You can see that dynamic at play in the partisan breakouts from the poll, where 82% of Republicans view Trump favorably while just 37% of independents and 1% of Democrats.

“That shows people are dug into their attitudes about Trump,” Monson said. “They’re not moving at all. It’s unusual to see such a polarizing figure in politics.”

Views of Trump may be driving attitudes toward Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney.

The poll found that 48% of Utahns view Lee favorably as opposed to 40% who have a negative opinion of Utah’s senior senator. Romney is seen favorably by just 45% of Utahns, while 52% see him unfavorably.

It’s generally not a good sign for an incumbent to be below 50%, but neither are on the ballot this year. Lee, if he decides to run for a third term in 2022, has the support of 71% of Republicans. It will be a difficult task for another Republican to wrest the party’s nomination from him.

Romney has more ground to make up. Just 39% of Republicans hold a favorable opinion of him, which is probably a function of his frequent criticism of Trump and his historic vote to remove Trump from office during February’s impeachment trial.

“Four years is a long time. It’s not impossible for Romney to make up that ground,” Monson said. “His disagreement with Trump is more rhetorical, which has caused friction among the GOP base. He hasn’t broken ranks with the party in the Senate.”

Even though Lee’s favorability is in the negative territory, he still has a net approval of +8. Romney, on the other hand, has a net negative approval of -7.

One thing that could catapult the favorability of both Romney and Lee is a Democratic sweep in the 2020 elections, said Monson, who is also a political scientist at Brigham Young University.

If Joe Biden defeats Trump at the ballot box, and Democrats take control of the Senate while keeping or expanding their majority in the House, Republicans in Utah will likely fall in line behind members of their party in Washington. Romney, in particular, could repair his standing with Utah Republicans mightily since he rarely breaks with GOP orthodoxy.

“If Trump is defeated, Republicans would be united against a Democratic-run Washington,” Monson said.

The Y2 Analytics survey was conducted online among 1,214 likely voters from Sept. 26 to Oct. 4 and has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.