Utahns see President Joe Biden’s first month in the White House no worse than former President Donald Trump’s last month.
Slightly more than half of residents in the state disapprove of his job performance 30 days into his presidency. But his approval rating is comparable to that of former President Donald Trump’s in reliably red Utah when he left office.
A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows 45% of voters approve of the job Biden is doing, while 51% disapprove, including 40% who strongly disapprove.
As Trump left office, his favorability among Utahns dipped to 49% after being in the mid-50s for the past year, while his disapproval rating stood at 50%.
Interestingly, Biden and conservative GOP Utah Sen. Mike Lee have the same approval rating among Utahns, though Biden’s disapproval rating is 10 percentage points higher than Lee’s, according to the poll.
“It shows people in Utah are willing to give Biden a chance,” said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant, adding that Lee’s rating indicates people are tired of his “antics.”
Still, the poll found a wide partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans.
Only 20% of those in the survey who identify themselves as Republicans approve of Biden’s performance, but the number soars to 95% among Democrats, including 72% who strongly approve. The new president also does better among women than men.
Biden has made COVID-19 the top priority of his administration. He signed a series of orders and directives on his second day in office to take charge of stopping the spread of the virus and that he says would boost testing, vaccinations, supplies and treatments. He is also pushing Congress for another $1.9 trillion relief package that would include direct payments to Americans, support for small businesses and more funding for vaccines and testing.
Utahns are split on how well he is doing.
The poll shows 23% of residents rate Biden’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as excellent, 22% good, 16% fair and 32% poor. The remaining 7% aren’t sure.
Again, Republicans gave him low marks with 45% rating his performance on COVID-19 as poor, while 53% of Democrats say it’s excellent. He again also does better with women than men.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen conducted the survey of 1,000 registered Utah voters on Feb. 10-16. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Merchant said anything Biden does on the coronavirus will be difficult.
“We’ve had a year of someone who literally did nothing. Anyone who asks people to do hard things won’t really be popular,” he said.
Biden didn’t do well in Utah in the November election, garnering just under 38% of the vote. Trump won the state with 58%. Trump, though, vacated the White House with the lowest approval rating of his presidency nationally and the lowest in Utah for the past year.
“Although President Biden didn’t come close to winning our state’s presidential vote, a significant number of Utahns are showing they have confidence in his ability to lead the country out of the pandemic,” said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Biden’s approval numbers will likely fluctuate to the degree that he succeeds in handling COVID-19, he added.
In his inaugural address, Biden vowed to unify the country and be a president for all Americans.
Members of Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegation have already complained that the administration doesn’t appear to want to work together on issues, including public lands.
Biden directed the U.S. Department of Interior to conduct a review of the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, which were downsized early in the Trump administration. He also banned new oil and gas development on federal lands, which Utah leaders say hurt the state’s economy.
Members of the delegation, Gov. Spencer Cox and GOP legislative leaders cautioned Biden about getting ahead of himself.
“A review in name only with predetermined results, which ultimately leads to a unilateral executive order enlarging the monuments’ boundaries, will not solve the root of the problem and will only deepen divisions in this country,” they wrote in a statement last month.
Cox said Biden’s decision on oil and gas leases was made without coordination with the state to determine how it would impact rural Utah and people who live there.
Merchant said he finds it “laughable” that half of Utah’s House members objected to Biden’s electoral votes and then gripe that he is being partisan. Most Utahns in Congress have opposed anything Biden has mentioned, he said.
“Bipartisanship is a two-way street, and it takes both sides having a willingness to work together,” Merchant said. “I haven’t seen our delegation even try to work with Joe Biden, and he’s been president for less than a month.”