Democrats like Mitt Romney. Republicans like Mike Lee. Utahns overall aren’t big on either one
New Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll shows job approval rating under 50% for both GOP senators
Utah Republicans like Sen. Mike Lee. No surprise there. Utah Democrats like Sen. Mitt Romney. No surprise there either even though he is a Republican.
Most polls have shown the state’s junior senator to have a consistent Democratic following given his votes to remove former President Donald Trump from office and positions on other issues. Safe to say many Republicans in Utah don’t care for Romney.
A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll reflects those voter sentiments. It also shows Utahns overall give neither senator high marks for his job performance.
Lee has a 45% approval rating, while Romney gets 46%. Not ringing endorsements of two Republican senators in a red state.
But Romney also has a disapproval rating equal to his approval number, 46%. That could make reelection tough if he were up in 2022. Lee’s disapproval rating sits at 34%, according to the latest survey. That’s up there, too, but more manageable as he seeks a third term next year.
And Utahns seem to have made up their minds more about Romney than Lee. Only 8% didn’t have an opinion of Romney’s job performance, while 20% didn’t have one about Lee’s.
Lee’s and Romney’s offices declined to comment on the poll results.
Dan Jones & Associates conducted the poll of 746 registered Utah voters from Oct. 14-21 for the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.54 percentage points.
Polling numbers for Lee and Romney from last year and earlier this year have remained consistent. Not much has changed in the eyes of voters regardless of what the senators have said or done or who occupies the White House.
In January, just as President Joe Biden took office, the approval and disapproval ratings for both senators was roughly the same as they are in the new poll.
The survey found 61% of Republicans approve of Lee’s performance. The figure jumps to 76% of those who identified themselves as very conservative. Romney’s approval among Republicans is 43%, while his disapproval is 52%. He scores only 20% of the very conservative crowd, while those who consider themselves somewhat or very liberal gave Romney a 56% approval rating.
Romney does better with the Democrats than he does with members of his own party, many of whom consider him a RINO — Republican In Name Only. His approval rating among Democrats in Utah is 60%. Moderate and independent voters also are more likely to favor Romney than Lee, the poll shows.
Lee has always been popular with the Republican base in Utah. GOP state delegates, who tend to be more conservative than voters at large in the state, dumped moderate Sen. Bob Bennett in favor of Lee in 2010.
Ten years later, delegates at the Republican Party state convention again cheered Lee. They booed Romney, who has said he now only represents a small slice of his party. He has expressed dismay about the direction of the GOP since at least 2016 when Trump became its presidential nominee. Delegates in 2018 forced Romney into a primary with conservative candidates, and would probably do so again if he runs for another term.
Both Romney and Lee have criticized Democrats and the Biden administration, most recently on their proposal to spend trillions of dollars on expanding social programs and a presidential order to enlarge two national monument boundaries in Utah.
Image and style also might have something to do with Utahns not fully embracing the two senators.
Lee is often viewed as a rigid obstructionist who is unwilling to compromise, though he teams up with progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on certain issues. Romney works with other centrists on both sides of the aisle but has a hard time shaking the rich guy label despite his efforts to be seen as a man of the people.
Among those in the poll who identified themselves as “very active” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the predominant religion in Utah, Lee received a 67% approval rating, while Romney’s is 50%.
Romney’s rating takes a big dip among “somewhat active” Latter-day Saints but rebounds with “not active” members. Lee’s rating drops with the activity level of church members in the survey. Both senators are members of the church.
Lee, 50, faces reelection in 2022. At least two moderate Republicans have stepped up to challenge him — former state lawmaker Becky Edwards and community and business leader Ally Isom. Independent Evan McMullin, a 2016 presidential candidate, also joined the race, as have several Democrats.
Romney is not up for reelection until 2024. The 74-year-old senator has not said whether he will run again.