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Should Senate have convicted Donald Trump? Utahns voice opinion in new poll

Poll shows Sen. Mitt Romney’s, Sen. Mike Lee’s votes in Trump trial has no impact on approval ratings

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.
Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

Slightly more than half of Utahns agree with the majority of Senate Republicans who found former President Donald Trump not guilty of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows 51% of voters in the state say the Senate should not have convicted Trump, while 43% say he should have been convicted. The remaining 7% were not sure.

The Senate voted 57-43 to acquit the former president last Saturday after a five-day trial. Seven Republicans, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, crossed party lines to vote with all 50 Senate Democrats. Conviction in an impeachment trial requires a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen said the survey results about Trump reflect broad partisan perspectives.

In the poll, 74% of those who identified themselves as Republicans opposed conviction, while 13% favored it. Among Democrats, 92% favored conviction and only 4% believe the Senate should have acquitted Trump.

Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 Utah registered voters from Feb. 10-16, during and after the Senate trial. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The wording of the question about whether the Senate should convict Trump was changed after the trial to reflect his acquittal. Rasmussen said there was no discernible difference in the response patterns between those who took the survey before or after the verdict.

Because Trump had already left the White House, removing him from office upon a conviction was out of play. The Senate, however, could have prevented Trump from holding federal office again.

Utahns are split over whether Trump should be barred from holding a future federal office. The poll found that 48% of Utahns believe he should not be barred, but 46% say he should be barred. The remaining 6% were not sure.

But nearly one-quarter of Republicans agree that Trump should not be allowed to hold federal office again, along with 92% of Democrats.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arrives as the Senate convenes in a rare weekend session for final arguments in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

The opposing votes that Utah’s two Republican senators cast in the Senate impeachment trial of Trump had no noticeable impact on what voters think about their overall job performance, according to the poll that was conducted during and after the trial.

Romney voted to convict Trump, while Sen. Mike Lee voted to acquit him.

“It is fair to say that the trial had little impact on Lee and Romney. That’s partly because the trial was pretty unsurprising and partly because the senators did nothing out of character with their earlier comments,” Rasmussen said.

Both senators signaled how they would vote after the House impeached Trump in early January. Romney and Lee came to opposite conclusions about the constitutionality of holding an impeachment trial for a former president and on the verdict.

According to the poll, Romney still rates considerably higher among Democrats than Republicans.

The poll shows 61% of Republicans in the state disapprove of Romney’s job performance, including more than half who strongly disapprove.

The first-term senator’s 50% approval rating among Utah voters is only slightly lower than where it has been the past year and the same as it was last month. His disapproval rating in the latest survey is 45%.

Lee continues to have a lower approval rating among all voters in the state but remains strong in the Republican Party.

The survey found 45% of Utahns approve of Lee’s performance, while 41% disapprove. Two-thirds of Republicans like the way the two-term senator is doing his job. Those numbers haven’t changed much in the past year.

Romney and Lee have received criticism and praise for their votes on Trump.

Some conservative Republicans signed a petition to censure Romney, while another group launched a change.org petition thanking him.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, walks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, as he heads to the second day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
Susan Walsh, Associated Press

Lee, 49, faces reelection in 2022. He has sent out a flurry of fundraising emails the past few weeks jabbing Democrats and the media. He called last week in Washington “nasty” and said Democrats’ “illegitimate, vindictive push” to convict Trump shows again how divisive and angry they can be.

“The left is going after red states — including Utah — like never before. They’re preparing to dump MILLIONS into seeing me lose. I know that money doesn’t buy votes, but we need to get our message out and I can’t do it alone,” reads one email.

The left-leaning Alliance for Better Utah launched a campaign this week called Humans Against Mike Lee. Its stated purpose is to “educate the public about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad reign of Mike Lee.”

“If you watched any of the impeachment trial last week — or if you’ve paid attention to the news at all over the past 10 years — you know that Sen. Mike Lee is the worst,” according to Better Utah political director Kathryn Calderon. “He’s an extremist who enjoys debating semantics and picking culture war fights instead of getting things done to help Utahns.”

Romney, 73, has not said whether he will seek a second term in 2024.