Delegates to the Republican state convention last weekend might not have thought much of Gov. Olene Walker, voting her out of a job in the fifth of seven rounds of preferential balloting.

But it seems delegates looked at Walker a whole lot differently than does the general public. In fact, 80 percent of Utahns strongly or somewhat approve of the job Walker is doing, according to a Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV.

Only 10 percent disapproved.

"I'm going down," joked Walker, referring to a poll last March that showed her with 81 percent approval. "That's what happens when you're in office too long."

Walker said she could not be more proud to be governor and she is tickled that Utah citizens approve of the job she is doing. "The fact I am doing so well among the general population is balm to the wounds" of getting knocked out at the state GOP convention. "I couldn't be more proud to be in that position."

The poll of 923 Utahns was conducted May 10 to 13 just after the GOP state convention. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.

Delegates to the GOP convention winnowed the slate of eight candidates down to businessman Jon Huntsman Jr. and Board of Regents chairman Nolan Karras. Businessman Fred Lampropoulos finished third and Walker fourth.

A majority of Utahns believe the delegates' choice of Karras and Huntsman probably reflected the choices of average Utah Republicans. Some 57 percent said the delegates definitely or probably reflected the average Utah Republican, whereas 32 percent said probably not or definitely not.

"I don't ever pretend to understand the minds of Republican delegates," said Democratic state party chairman Donald Dunn. "It is clear people are scratching their heads about what happened or didn't happen" at the GOP convention.

Walker, who assumed the governorship last November when Mike Leavitt resigned to become administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, has embarked upon an aggressive agenda. She has championed a childhood reading program, initiated a watershed restoration project, announced efforts to resolve wilderness disputes and even assembled a task force to look at overhauling Utah's tax code.

And in her short tenure she also locked horns with the Legislature, vetoing several bills. Legislators overrode two of the vetoes — neither one of them particularly political — but they did not have the votes to override vetoes of two bills near and dear to the hearts of conservative lawmakers. Those vetoes became an issue for her at the state convention.

But Utahns of all political stripes approve of the job she is doing. Among those who say they are very conservative, 71 percent strongly or somewhat approve; among those who say they are very liberal, her approval rating is 75 percent.

Her approval among those who say they are somewhat liberal is a stratospheric 90 percent, among moderates it is 80 percent and among those who say they are somewhat conservative it came it at 85 percent.

Walker had appeal to Republicans (80 percent approval), Democrats (77 percent approval) and independents (81 percent).

"I just hope in the seven months that I have left I can continue to serve the people of Utah in a manner that earns their acceptance," she said.

She is hopeful her efforts on things such as public lands, wilderness, watershed issues and childhood education will become initiatives the next governor will continue. "I hope we have set a new pattern and those things will endure," she said.

"Who knows if it will be meaningful," she added. "Fifty years from now I may be an asterisk in the history books."


E-mail: spang@desnews.com