President Joe Biden’s approval rating continues to plummet in Utah as many of his policies and proposals don’t play well in the conservative state.
The first-term president fared a little better among Utahns regarding his handling of COVID-19, though his performance there has also taken a hit, according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.
The survey found 65% of Utah voters disapprove, including just over half who strongly disapprove, of the job Biden is doing, while only 32% like the way he is running the country.
“Would I have liked it to have been better? Absolutely,” Scott Howell, a former Democratic Utah Senate leader and Biden campaign surrogate, said of the numbers.
The reality, he said, is that Biden is taking on a lot of issues that even the best leaders would find challenging. Howell acknowledged there is still a long way to go.
“Our culture and our society is benefiting from a president that is not doing policy by tweets. We’re not waking up every morning to some tweet about who we may or may not bomb or start a war with or castigating some woman or a man for public flogging, and that’s what we had for the last four years,” Howell said.
“If it takes a little bit of people not rallying to the cause, it sure in the hell is a lot better than what we had.”
Biden’s approval in Deseret News/Hinckley Institute surveys earlier this year was as high as 45%, but has dropped since due to a combination of issues, including the chaotic and deadly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the raging COVID-19 delta variant, the crisis at the southern border with Mexico, and the perception that the he is acting ways that polarize rather than unite.
Republicans in Utah also have criticized the president’s yet-to-be-finalized vaccine mandate for large businesses and his plan to spend a few trillion dollars on so-called “social infrastructure.”
Biden has been on the stump about his “Build Back Better” agenda as congressional Democrats pare back the domestic spending package in hopes of striking a deal this week.
“Democrats enjoy a very brief honeymoon phase in Utah, Biden’s seems particularly short-lived due to several factors: the withdrawal from Afghanistan, labor shortage, inflation, pandemic, and economic woes across the country,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
Utahns gave the president higher marks in his handling of the COVD-19 pandemic, but that number, too, has fallen from a high of 50% earlier this year to a 41% approval rating in the latest poll. His disapproval rating is 55%.
“Utahns are less harsh on Biden’s handling of the pandemic, though overall are still critical,” Perry said. “Confusion over vaccine mandates and booster shots may be leading to these low numbers.”
Dan Jones & Associates conducted the poll of 746 registered Utah voters from Oct. 14-21. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.54 percentage points.
Some of those convergent issues have also caused his popularity to fade nationally. In late August, his disapproval rating overtook his approval rating for the first time, and he hasn’t recovered.
Biden had a 49.2% disapproval rating and 44.5% approval in early October, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.
Howell said he believes those who oppose the president have done a better job with what he called the FUD factors — fear, uncertainty and doubt. He said he sees it in the form of conspiracy theories and issues such as the COVID-19 vaccine, which he called “horrendous misinformation and just lies and distractions.”
“I think that for the American people this is such a challenging time of uncertainty that you usually don’t introduce major change into an economy, a culture or the general public without knowing what you’re trying to do is going to cause consternation,” he said.
The president’s disapproval in Utah rating jumps to 82% among those in the poll who identified themselves as Republicans. Among Democrats, a decided minority in the state, his approval rating is 83%, the poll shows. He gets 38% approval from unaffiliated or independent voters.
Biden does a little better among women than men in the state, with 33% of women approving of his job performance compared to 28% of men. White voters give him a 31% approval rating, while non-white voters give him 43% approval.
The president’s job performance rating among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the predominant religion in Utah, coincided with their self-described level of activity in the faith.
The poll found Biden has a 16% approval rating among “very active” Latter-day Saints, 27% with “some active” members and 43% among those who are “not active.”
Howell said he remains “full of hope.”
“I believe hope is a key word of President Biden,” he said. “When he speaks he often talks about hope and that there is a future, but it does take time.”