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Obama’s job approval ratings hit new lows in Utah

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President Barack Obama greets cadets Tuesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., after ordering more troops to Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama greets cadets Tuesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., after ordering more troops to Afghanistan.

Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

As President Barack Obama goes about convincing Americans that he's right on the Afghan war, Utahns remain solid in their opinion of the man: They don't like this guy.

A new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows Obama is hitting new lows among Utahns in his job performance rating.

Most Utahns are conservatives, and in general they have never thought highly of Obama.

But a new Dan Jones & Associates survey shows that only 38 percent of Utahns "strongly" or "somewhat" approve of the job Obama is doing as president. That number is 10 to 15 percentage points lower than the president's approval ratings nationally, several recent polls of Americans show.

Sixty percent of Utahns disapprove of Obama's job performance, Jones found.

"He only got 34 percent of the vote here," noted Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party. "So at least his (job approval) rating is higher than that," he added.

Still, Obama, a Democrat and the nation's first African-American president, does better here than Congress, also controlled by Democrats.

Jones found that 70 percent of Utahns disapprove of Congress; only 27 percent say they strongly or somewhat approve of the job Congress is doing.

These, of course, are not good poll numbers — either for Obama or Congress.

Dave Hansen, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said he believes both Obama's and Congress' unpopularity here will greatly help GOP candidates in 2010.

"Go back to when Democrats held the White House and Congress, and Republicans in Utah do very well in the next election — whether it was 1994, 1978 or 1966," said Hansen, who is a student of local and national politics.

"Obama's tanking in the polls will help us," he added.

The new Jones survey shows just how partisan national politics are perceived here in Utah.

For example:

Only 2 percent of Utah Republicans "strongly" believe Obama is doing a good job. Fifty-eight percent "strongly disapprove" of the job Obama is doing.

Sixty-seven percent of Utah Democrats "strongly" think Obama is doing a good job; 4 percent "strongly disapprove."

Independents are more even-handed as 41 percent approve of Obama's job performance, while 57 percent disapprove.

"The partisanship has hardened here," Taylor said, "regardless of any real actions" by Obama or Congress.

Even though Obama has only been in office 11 months, the new survey seems to indicate that Utahns have made up their minds about him — for good or bad.

Obama barely carried Salt Lake County in the 2008 election. (He lost the state handily, however.)

The new poll shows that 49 percent of county residents approve of the job Obama is doing, while 51 percent of county residents disapprove, barely different than the voting numbers a year ago.

While Hansen is licking his lips over the idea of GOP sweeps in Utah next year, Taylor is downplaying the president's lack of popularity here.

"I don't think it matters much," said the Democratic Party leader. "George Bush was despised across the nation" in 2008. "Yet he was still above 50 percent (job approval rating) in Utah.

"This is just a reflection of the partisan stew we're living in" across America and in this state, Taylor said.

e-mail: bbjr@desnews.com