According to the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, 41% of Utah voters say they approve of Sen. Mitt Romney’s performance while 49% say they disapprove and 10% of voters say they don’t know.

The approval percentage is down 11 points since March, when a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll showed that 52% of Utah voters either strongly approved or somewhat approved of Romney’s performance.

Romney, who is still weighing whether he should run for a second term in the U.S. Senate, struggled among Republican voters in the latest poll, with 51% saying they strongly or somewhat disapprove of his performance.

“In this polarized environment, true conservatives are seeking candidates that really speak to their conservative core and distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack,” said Josh Ryan, a political science professor at Utah State University.

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“Mitt Romney has sought a more moderate path, and in the process may have alienated himself from the most conservative voters,” Ryan said.

But, Ryan argued, since Romney isn’t afraid to take an independent stance on issues and is well respected in the state of Utah, his Senate seat is likely safe if he decides to run again.

Plus, he said, “It’s also very difficult to defeat an incumbent senator.”

“I think these polls likely underestimate his strength, and in my mind, he’s still favored to win reelection.”

The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from May 22-June 1, 2023, and it surveyed 798 Utah voters. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points.

Romney was better positioned in the Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll in March, when 44% of voters disapproved of his performance.

Josh McCrain, a political science professor at the University of Utah, pointed out the “unusual course” Romney has charted for himself, cutting across party lines.

“He’s an equal opportunity offender,” McCrain said.

As for his approval rating, it’s tough to land a supermajority in the Beehive State, the professor argued.

When voters were asked if Romney should seek reelection, 51% of voters said no while 47% said yes and 3% said they didn’t know.

Among Republicans, 54% said no, but a majority of Democrats, nearly 55%, said Romney should run again.

Will Romney run for a second term in the Senate?

Romney filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission in April, as the Deseret News reported. This will allow him to raise and spend money on a potential reelection campaign.

Earlier this month, Romney said he would announce in the summer or fall whether he will run again, and his decision would be based on what he thinks he can accomplish in the Senate.

“I am doing what I’ve got to do to make sure that if I decide to run again, I’ll win. So I’m raising money, I put together a team and keeping my options open,” he said. 

Whether or not Romney runs, a Utah mayor announced in May he plans to seek Romney’s Senate seat. Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs told the Deseret News previously that throughout his 10 years of service as an elected official in Riverton, “I think I have proven myself as a fighter, somebody who is consistently conservative, on all fronts.”

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs announces run for Mitt Romney’s Senate seat
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Another prominent Republican in the state, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, has also declared an interest in Romney’s seat and has formed an exploratory committee.

Political science professor Michael Lyons at Utah State University said he doesn’t think the poll numbers “cast much doubt on (Romney’s) ability to win reelection, if he can win the renomination.”

“The overall congressional approval rating has been so low for so long (20% roughly) that it is dragging down ratings for individual incumbents more than had been the case historically,” Lyons said. “A 41% approval rating is no longer, necessarily, an invitation to retire.”

But Lyons said that the Utah senator may face some struggles, especially with conservative voters who are loyal to former President Donald Trump as well as those who are ultra-conservative, which “could easily splinter convention opposition to Romney and land him in a primary.”

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