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Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden? Utah still picks Trump

CNN sent a statement announcing there won’t be an audience for the March 15 Democratic debate
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are pictured during recent campaign events this year.
Associated Press photos

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite all the recent excitement surrounding the Democratic presidential candidates, Utahns still favor President Donald Trump over any of them.

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden inched up in head-to-head matchups with Trump, whose approval rating in Utah also rose slightly, according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.

And Trump might be doing well in the state because Utahns are doing well.

The survey shows 65% of Utahns say they are better off now than they were three years ago when Trump took office, while 28% say they are not better off. Among Republicans, that number swells to 77%, but drops to 54% for Democrats.

A recent Gallup poll found 61% of Americans say they are better off than they were three years ago, which is a more upbeat assessment than any recent president has enjoyed while beginning their reelection year, said pollster Scott Rasmussen.

When Barack Obama was at the same point in his presidency, 45% said they were better off. For each of the three presidents before Obama, 50% thought they were better off under George W. Bush in 2004, Bill Clinton in 1996 and George H.W. Bush in 1992.

All of them except the first President Bush won reelection, Rasmussen said.

Should Utah’s economy continue to boom and unemployment remain low, Sanders or Biden — now the two leading Democrats — might have a difficult time overtaking the president in November.

The Vermont senator and the former vice president each get 33% of the Utah vote when paired against Trump. The president wins 50% of the vote against each one. The remainder would chose another candidate, not vote or weren’t sure, the poll shows.

Both Sanders and Biden had 31% against Trump in the Deseret News/Hinckley Institute survey from a month ago.

President Donald Trump talks with a man in the crowd as he arrives at Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.
President Donald Trump talks with a man in the crowd as he arrives at Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“We’d expect that Donald Trump will win the state, but not as overwhelmingly as he might like,” Rasmussen said. “It doesn’t seem to be much different between Sanders and Biden, and I think that’s just a reflection of the fact that Donald Trump is the great unifier of the Democratic Party for this election cycle.”

Rasmussen polled 1,000 likely Utah registered voters Feb. 24-March 1. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Sanders won the Democratic presidential primary in Utah on Super Tuesday, but Biden’s big night around the country revived his lagging campaign after his poor showing in New Hampshire. Biden finished a distant second in Utah.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is reassessing her campaign after disappointing results Tuesday, including losing her home state.

The polls shows 28% of Utahns would vote for Warren in a race against Trump, who again pulls 50%. Those numbers are unchanged from the previous survey.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobacher, D-Minn., and billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg all dropped out in the past few days and threw their support behind Biden.

Bloomberg, who finished third in the Utah primary, would have fared best against Trump in the state in both the latest and earlier polls. Rasmussen said he would have expected a bigger drop off for Bloomberg after his debate performance, not that it matters now.

Trump, who fired away on Twitter against the Democratic challengers on Tuesday and Wednesday, continues to do better with Utahns, though a split remains.

The poll showed 55% of residents approve — 26% strongly and 29% somewhat — of the job he is doing, up 2 percentage points from Deseret News/Hinckley Institute survey in January. At 43%, the president still has a high disapproval rating in the state, though that number dropped a little.

Rasmussen said he would describe Trump’s numbers as “pretty stable” in Utah.

Utah Republicans continue to think highly of the president as 80% approve of his job performance, up from 76% a month ago. Trump took 89% of the Utah GOP vote on Super Tuesday.

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.