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What Utahns think about President Joe Biden’s handling of COVID-19

President Joe Biden takes questions from reporters as he speaks about the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining Room of the White House on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Washington. Slightly more than half of Utahns approve of the way Biden is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, while residents continue to give his overall job performance low marks.
Evan Vucci, Associated Press

Slightly more than half of Utahns give President Joe Biden a thumbs up for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while a majority of residents continue to give his overall job performance low marks.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found 52% of people in Utah strongly or somewhat approve of the way the president is managing the pandemic. Another 43% strongly or somewhat disapprove, while 4% don’t know.

Among those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or will be as soon as possible, 68% approve of the president’s handling of the pandemic. Among those who will never be vaccinated, only 9% approve. In the middle, people who have not been vaccinated but are not opposed to vaccination, 30% approve of the way Biden has handled the pandemic.

As Biden took office in January, Utahns identified vaccine distribution as his top priority.

“The successful rollout of the vaccines in Utah has kept his approval ratings steady. This continued support shows he is hitting the mark for a majority of Utahns, including a significant number of Republicans. Consequently, there seems to be a direct correlation between willingness to get vaccinated and support for President Biden,” said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Biden set a new goal this week to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by the Fourth of July as he tries to win over people he called “doubters” and those not motivated to get vaccinated.

Nearly 150 million Americans have gotten at least one shot and more than 108 million are fully vaccinated. In Utah, over 1.3 million people have received one dose, while just over 1 million are fully vaccinated.

Biden called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise. His administration for the first time also is moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots, according to the Associated Press.

“You do need to get vaccinated,” he said Tuesday from the White House. “Even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? It could save your life or the lives of somebody you love.”

First lady Jill Biden visited a pop-up vaccination clinic at Jordan Park in Salt Lake City on Wednesday to urge people to get inoculated, especially the Latino community where vaccinations are lagging. She spoke to volunteers and local officials, including the Democratic Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County mayors, saying at one point, “Thank you for leading the charge.”

In the poll, 98% of Democrats approve of how President Biden is dealing with COVID-19, compared to 33% of Republicans.

Independent pollster Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 registered voters in Utah from April 30 to May 6. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with lawmakers to discuss the American Jobs Plan in the Oval Office of the White House on Monday, April 12, 2021, in Washington.
Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

As for the president’s overall job performance, 52% of Utahns strongly or somewhat disapprove, while 44% strongly or somewhat approve, the poll shows. Those numbers haven’t changed much compared to previous Deseret News/Hinckley Institute polls since Biden became president.

Of those who approve, 57% have been vaccinated. Of those who disapprove, 40% have been vaccinated.

Not surprisingly, Biden’s approval rating among Democrats is 96%, compared to 20% among Republicans.

Members of Utah’s all-GOP congressional delegation complain that despite the president’s call for unity, blatant partisanship and a “radical” agenda has marked his first nearly four months in the White House. They have criticized his plans to spend $6 trillion for infrastructure, investment in America and more social safety net programs as too costly.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said it’s “completely unsustainable.”

“People say we’re kicking the deficit problem down the road to our kids and grandkids. That’s nonsense. We’ll never get to our grandkids. We’ll never kick this can down the road to our kids. This is a problem we have to deal with,” he said Thursday on Fox News.

Biden didn’t fare well in Utah in the November election, getting 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.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that of people who have not been vaccinated but are not opposed to vaccination, 30% approve of the way Biden has handled the pandemic.