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76% of Utahns still back Bush

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Across the nation, Americans have a dwindling opinion of how well President Bush is running things. But Bush remains highly popular in Utah.

A new Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV poll shows 76 percent of Utahns strongly or somewhat approve of the job Bush is doing as president. Only 22 percent disapprove of Bush's job performance. One percent didn't know, pollster Dan Jones & Associates found.

True, Bush's popularity has dropped here as well. He reached a high point of 92 percent approval rating in December 2001, just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, after which the president

was seen as a strong leader.

He scored 82 percent approval ratings in an April 2003 Jones survey.

But a 76 percent approval rating is still a good mark given by Utahns. Gov. Mike Leavitt got a 75 percent approval rating in the new survey, Jones found.

Earlier this month, before Bush made a nationally televised speech Sept. 7 saying he needed $87 billion more to keep troops in Iraq and rebuild that country, two national polls showed Bush's approval rating just over 50 percent — well down from the 60 to 70 percent approval ratings of just months ago recorded in national surveys.

Jones' latest survey straddled Bush's address, with part of the 412 respondents called before the Bush speech and the rest surveyed after.

Jones said there was no discernible difference between respondents' opinions of Bush before or after he gave his speech.

Democrats see Bush's shrinking approval ratings nationally as an opening to have him voted out of office next year.

Utahns, of course, like GOP officeholders, especially Republican presidents.

And there is little doubt who will win Utah's five Electoral College presidential votes next year. Utahns have voted for the GOP presidential nominee every election for 40 years; the last Democrat to win the state was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 to 1 in Utah. And 94 percent of those who told Jones they are Republicans approve of the job Bush is doing as president. Only 34 percent of Democrats approve of the president; 66 percent disapprove of Bush's actions. Seventy-one percent of political independents approve of Bush's job performance.

E-MAIL: bbjr@desnews.com