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Do Utahns still like Gov. Spencer Cox? New poll numbers are in

The Republican governor’s job approval ratings have dipped slightly since January

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Utah first lady Abby Cox, left, and her husband, Gov. Spencer Cox, sit on their horses at West High School in Salt Lake City.

Utah first lady Abby Cox, left, and her husband, Gov. Spencer Cox, sit on their horses at West High School in Salt Lake City as they prepare to help drive a small herd of Texas longhorn cattle toward the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City on July 19, 2021. The drive was held to celebrate the return of the Days of ‘47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As he nears the end of his first year in office, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s job approval ratings have dipped slightly.

That’s according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, which shows the wave of high approval ratings Cox rode in the early months of his administration has receded — though a majority of Utahns still support him.

Asked whether they approve or disapprove of Cox’s job performance, 55% of Utahns said they approve while 26% said they disapprove.

More specifically, 23% said they strongly approve, 32% said they somewhat approve, 14% said they somewhat disapprove, and 12% said they strongly disapprove. Another 19% said they didn’t know.

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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.

The poll is the latest of a series of Deseret News/Hinckley Institute polls that have gauged Utahn’s feelings about Cox throughout the year and shown Cox’s approval ratings peaked at 66% in March, lingered at 65% in April, then dropped slightly to 58% in June. That latter poll was conducted June 18-25 by Scott Rasmussen of 1,000 registered Utah voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Still, more than half of Utahns approve of Cox’s job performance — and that’s good news to the Republican governor’s spokeswoman Jennifer Napier Pearce.

“Ten months in, we’re very grateful that the majority of Utahns support the governor’s vision of helping families, keeping us safe, strengthening the economy and providing opportunity for all,” Pearce said in a prepared statement to the Deseret News when told of the poll results.

Despite the slight dip, Cox’s approval ratings do still appear strong, said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.

“He has been remarkably steady,” Perry said, “in spite of so many tough issues that are facing him but also facing the state. Whether it’s unemployment, inflation, federal vaccine mandates, there have been a lot of very difficult issues, and he’s clearly not taking the blame.”

Perry said it’s important to note that even though there’s been a slight drop in approval, his disapprovals have not changed dramatically. They’ve gone up slightly, he noted, but have stayed steady as well.

“So you really can’t get an indication that there’s a big slide and they’re turning from approve to disapprove. That just hasn’t happened,” Perry said.

As Cox approaches the one-year mark in office, Perry said he’s keeping relatively good favor with most Utahns. That’s a position he likely feels good about, Perry said.

“The issues that we are facing are significant, and any one of them are the kinds of things that can have a very negative impact on a state leader. And they haven’t,” Perry said.

Slightly more Utahns tend to approve of Cox when asked specifically about his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest issue he’s grappled with since he took office in January. However, slightly more Utahns also tend to disapprove, showing the governor’s job on pandemic divides Utahns slightly more.

About 57% said they approve of Cox’s handling of the pandemic, while 31% said they disapprove. A smaller number of Utahns — 11% — said they haven’t made up their mind.

More specifically, 25% said they strongly approved of Cox’s handling of the pandemic, 32% said they somewhat approved, 18% said they somewhat disapproved, and 13% said they strongly disapproved.

Still, there continues to be a faction of Utahns that aren’t sure about how they feel about the first-year governor, with 19% who said they didn’t know what to think about his job performance.

“There is a segment of our Utah population that is waiting to see,” Perry said. “They’re concerned about significant issues that they’re facing ... It’s not because they don’t know Gov. Cox. It’s because the circumstances themselves are putting them in a position where they’re not sure how they feel about him and because the issues are so big and the opinions are so varied.”