SALT LAKE CITY — Would things be better in the country if Hillary Clinton were president?
Utahns don’t think so.
Even though voters in the decidedly red state didn’t embrace Donald Trump in 2016, they seem to be warming somewhat to the president, even as he faces possible removal from office after being impeached.
Utahns would choose the president over the top Democratic contenders, though Trump doesn’t reach a majority in any of those potential races.
A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows 53% of Utah residents say the United States would be worse off if Clinton occupied the White House instead of Trump. Only 24% say the country would be better, while 13% don’t think things would be much different.
And you don’t even have to ask Trump what he thinks. He’ll tell you whether you want to know or not, tweeting this week: “Are you better off now than you were three years ago? Almost everyone says YES!”
Clinton was in Park City last week for the premiere of the documentary “Hillary,” in which she says losing to Trump “made me sick to my stomach.”
During a question-and-answer session at the Sundance Film Festival, Clinton said the next president has a lot of domestic problems to address as well as serious problems around the world because of the way Trump has conducted himself.
A slight majority of Utahns, though, have a favorable view of the president.
Trump gets a 53% percent approval rating from Utahns — 27% strongly approve and 26% somewhat approve of the job he is doing. On the flip side, 44% disapprove, including 30% strongly, according to the poll.
“Utahns are divided on President Trump but they’re not divided at all on Hillary Clinton,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah. He noted the percentage of residents who approve of Trump and say things would be worse with Clinton are the same.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,017 Utah registered voters Jan. 15-22. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Though Perry said it’s a bit of surprise that Trump’s approval rating is up, Utahns have remained consistent about Clinton.
Impeachment, he said, doesn’t appear to be having an impact. The more it’s perceived as a political process as opposed to getting at the truth, the more it plays in Trump’s favor, Perry said.
A booming economy, low unemployment and falling gas prices in the state also might play into residents’ feelings about how things are going in the country.
“People do vote with their 401Ks and they do pay attention to who they think will be able to best allow them to provide for their families. Hillary Clinton did not claim that message, President Trump did,” Perry said, adding people continue to believe the economy is better under Trump than it would have been with Clinton.
Utahns also are generally pleased with Trump’s two appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Charles Stormont isn’t among those who think the country is better with Trump at the helm, though he concedes Clinton has flaws and wouldn’t be a perfect president.
“The current president has tried to transform the executive branch into a kingship,” said the Democratic national committeeman and one-time Utah attorney general candidate.
Trump, he said, has injected politics into judicial appointments and is on trial for abusing his power.
“It just highlights that he’s really undermined faith and confidence in our form of government,” Stormont said. “When somebody goes to work every day and tries to bring down the institutions of government that our entire society is built around, it sure seems like we would be better off with anybody else in that position.”
Derek Brown, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said things are better in the country with Trump by any objective measure, listing record low unemployment, foreign affairs and the new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, among others.
“He is doing what he said he’d do,” Brown said.
Brown said he was able to see how Trump’s mind works when the president dropped in on a recent Republican National Committee meeting he attended in Florida.
“He knows what he’s doing, but sometimes he makes it look like he’s freewheeling,” he said. “But I think there’s a clear line of sight from where we are to where he wants to take us, and the results of that are what people are seeing now.”
Naturally, Trump does well among Republicans in the state with 76% approving of his performance, while 83% of Democrats disapprove, according to the poll.
A Salt Lake Chamber poll last August showed Utahns more evenly split over their impression of the president, with 48% saying they view Trump favorably and 49% not favorably. That survey also found a majority of residents believe one term in office is enough for Trump.
When matched head to head against the top six Democratic presidential candidates in the Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll, Trump bests them all, though he only wins with 50% over Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Michael Bloomberg fares best against the president with 32% of Utahns saying they would vote for the billionaire and former New York City mayor. Trump gets 45% in that scenario.
Part of the reason Bloomberg might have done better than the other candidates is because he is trying to take the economic argument back for the Democrats, Perry said. It’s an issue Utahns are looking for and Bloomberg knows the economy, he said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden pulls 31% in a race with Trump as does Sanders, with Warren getting 28%, Pete Buttigieg, former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, 25% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., only 23%, the survey shows.
Based on the results of those ballot matchups, 40% of Utah voters always picked Trump and 7% usually backed Trump. Another 24% always or usually picked the Democratic candidate. Those who always picked Trump jumps to 49% among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while it drops to 33% with Catholics.
Perry said it’s key for the candidates to go after and capture voters in the middle.
Trump won Utah in 2016 with just 45.5% of the vote, his lowest margin of victory in any of the states he captured. Utah has voted for a Republican for president since 1964.