Poll: What Utahns think about new President Joe Biden

A slight majority of Utahns don’t think much of President Joe Biden, who took the oath of office Wednesday after one of the most turbulent periods in American history.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found 52% of residents have an unfavorable opinion — including 40% very unfavorable — of the new president. The survey shows that 45% of Utahns have a favorable opinion of Biden, while 3% aren’t sure.

Biden didn’t do well in Utah in the November election, garnering just under 38% of the vote. Former President Donald Trump won the state with 58% of the vote. Trump, though, left office with the lowest approval rating of his presidency and the lowest in Utah for at least the past year.

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Scott Howell, a former Democratic Utah Senate leader and surrogate for Biden, said it will be a challenge for Biden to win over Utahns, especially those who believe the election was rigged and who subscribe to conspiracy theories.

“If you’re not happy and think it was bad or rigged, you know what, pray for him. Watch what he does. Stand back and look at where he goes and what he says,” Howell said.

Still, he said Biden will do things that many in the state will lament, such as rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord, lifting the travel ban from majority-Muslim countries and providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.

“If you don’t like people of color, you’re not going to be happy. If you want to have a wall and keep everybody out, you’re not going to be happy. If you feel like everybody should have any type of firearm they want, from tanks to bazookas to whatever firearms there are, you’re not going to be happy,” Howell said.

Biden was sworn in as the 46th president on the steps of the U.S. Capitol amid tight security two weeks after an armed pro-Trump mob stormed the building as Congress counted electoral votes.

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In his inauguration speech, the Democratic former Delaware senator called for unity and vowed to be “a president for all Americans.”

Of those who identified themselves as liberals in the survey, 97% have a favorable impression of Biden, while for conservatives it was 15%. Moderates came down in the middle, with 58% having a favorable opinion of the president.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the predominant religion in Utah, have a lower opinion of Biden than Utahns in general. The poll shows 65% have an unfavorable opinion of him — including 49% very unfavorable. Only 31% have a favorable opinion of the president.

Florida-based pollster Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 Utah registered voters Jan. 12-15. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

In the poll, 40% of Utahns identified distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine as the top priority for the Biden administration. Another 15% listed passing another coronavirus relief bill, while 10% named health care. Taxes and and foreign policy followed at 7% and 6%, respectively. The remaining 22% listed other issues.

Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan last week to speed up vaccine distribution and give a financial aid to people struggling with the pandemic’s economic fallout. His proposal aims to administer 100 million vaccines in the first 100 days of his administration.

Nearly 60% of Democrats in the poll listed vaccine distribution as the top priority, followed by economic relief at 21%. Those were the top priorities among Republicans as well, but at much lower percentages. Nearly one-third of Republicans mentioned issues other than vaccines, stimulus, foreign policy, taxes and health care.

Sen. Mike Lee, a strong supporter of Trump, said he and Biden don’t agree on everything, but they can find common ground on issues like criminal justice reform and tax relief for working families. The Utah Republican said he hopes they can turn those agreements into successful bipartisan legislation.