Poll: Utah Gov. Cox gaining popularity among conservatives, liberal approval rating slips
Overall the Republican governor has a 64% approval rating among the state’s voters, while 30% disapprove
Halfway through his third year in office, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox continues to see broad support from constituents across party lines.
However, over the last five months, as the governor signed hundreds of bills into law — some popular and some controversial — his popularity appears to be growing among self-identified conservatives and moderates and waning with liberals.
That’s according to the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, which points to a 64% approval rating among Utah voters, with 30% of respondents saying they disapprove of the Republican governor’s performance and just 6% answering “don’t know.”
Specifically, 19% of respondents strongly approve, 45% somewhat approve, 20% somewhat disapprove and 10% strongly disapprove.
“It’s great to see that the majority of Utahns continue to support Gov. Cox and his track record of low taxes, teacher raises, water conservation and infrastructure,” said Jennifer Napier-Pearce, spokesperson for the governor. “His efforts have not only improved lives and boosted our economy, but resulted in Utah being ranked as the best state in the nation. The governor will keep working hard to solve problems and enhance our quality of life.”
Dan Jones & Associates surveyed 800 registered Utah voters from April 25-28. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.
The results point to an incremental rise in overall satisfaction since December, the last time the Deseret News asked Utahns what they think of Cox — roughly 63% of respondents approved.
That five-month span included the 2023 legislative session, where Cox signed some of the country’s first and most restrictive social media laws into place aimed at curbing teen use, a bevy of water-related bills, at least 10 laws intended to wrangle Utah’s rapid growth, a law that further limits access to abortion in the state and three bills directed at LGBTQ children — one which places a moratorium on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for minors.
Those last two issues — abortion and gender identity — could be why Cox seems to be gaining popularity among conservative voters, and losing support with liberals, says Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University.
Consider these changes since December:
- Cox’s support among very conservative voters increased from 58% to 63%
- Support among somewhat conservative voters increased from 69% to 75%
- Support among moderates increased from 60% to 78%
- Support among somewhat liberal voters decreased from 74% to 55%
- Support among very liberal voters plummeted from 51% to 24%
“While Democrats still tend to approve of the governor more than they disapprove, it seems likely that some of the more controversial bills he signed, including on abortion and transgender issues, have undermined his standing among self-identified liberals,” said Karpowitz.
Before the legislative session, somewhat liberal voters were the group most supportive of Cox — five months later, support among that same group appears to have dropped by nearly 20%, eclipsed by moderates who now approve of Cox more than any other political ideology.
“These same dynamics likely bolstered his standing among self-identified conservatives, who are a much larger group in Utah,” Karpowitz said, pointing to somewhat conservative voters, just 17% of whom disapprove.
Still, it’s worth noting that liberals still largely support their governor, Karpowitz said, evidenced by the 55% of somewhat liberal voters who gave Cox a thumbs up — and additionally, the 54% of registered Democrats who said they approved. By comparison, 68% of registered Republican voters responded favorably.
Karpowitz says that tracks with how Utahns viewed Cox’s two predecessors, who can both be described as conservative but relatively moderate.
“Utahns seem to really like their governors lately. Governor Cox continues to benefit from the high levels of popularity that previous governors like Gary Herbert and Jon Huntsman also enjoyed. It is a remarkable run of approval from the state’s voters,” he said.