Utah No. 1 in approval of Bush
State's view in sharp contrast to rest of U.S.
In all other states, most residents disapprove of the job Bush is doing, new polls show. And in some states, the disapproval rates are overwhelming — such as Rhode Island, where three of four residents disapprove of the president's job performance.
But in Utah, a new survey by Dan Jones & Associates for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV, shows that a whopping 66 percent of registered voters surveyed "strongly or somewhat" approve of the job the Republican president is doing.
Thirty-three percent disapproved of Bush. Only 1 percent of Utahns didn't have an opinion, Jones found. He surveyed 900 voters, the poll having a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.
Utahns give Bush the highest job-approval rating of any state in the nation, a separate poll conducted a week ago by SurveyUSA found.
That poll found that across the nation, 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, while 37 percent approve — just about an even flip from Utahns' views of the president.
Why are Utahns so out of step?
Well, most Utahns just plain like Bush, according to leaders of both political parties. Utahns gave Bush the largest margins of victory of the 50 states in both 2000 and 2004.
"Bush is a deeply moral man," and that reflects well for him in Utah, a conservative, moral state, said Joe Cannon, chairman of the Utah Republican Party.
"It's partisanship, plain and simple," said Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party. The fact that in Utah Bush's job approval numbers are about flip-flop from the rest of the nation's shows that "Utah is a different place, politically," Taylor said.
Bush will not be on the ballot in Utah, or anywhere else, perhaps, ever again. But the president can still have an impact, especially here. He will visit Utah at least once before Election Day — he's coming Aug. 30 to speak to the American Legion convention.
Utah GOP leaders will try to get Bush to appear for Republican candidates, if not during the August visit, then later, Cannon said.
"Utah is the most red (Republican) state in the nation — even more than Idaho and Wyoming" — two other states that gave Bush a positive approval rating, Cannon said.
"And we are loyal here — we like our incumbents, even (Democratic U.S. Rep.) Jim Matheson," Cannon said.
But Utah is also the most LDS state in the nation. And members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no matter where they live, are viewed as a "subgroup some of the most Republican voters in the nation," Cannon said.
"Something like 90 percent of Mormons vote Republican in presidential races. That is one reason the president is so popular here," Cannon said.
In fact, Cannon said numbers he's seen show that LDS Church members are more loyal to Republicans in presidential voting than any other identifiable groups. "Mormons are the African-Americans of the Republican Party — something like 90 percent of black Americans vote Democratic.
"Utahns are a little different than Idaho, Wyoming or even Texas (where Bush was governor) because of the large percent of LDS voters" here, Cannon said.
Does a Bush visit or two before Election Day harm Democratic candidates' chances here?
Taylor doesn't believe so — even if Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson, a Democrat, organizes anti-Bush-policy demonstrations in Salt Lake City when the president visits.
"You don't campaign against Bush," Taylor said. "But you do point out his policies that hurt Utahns — like (the GOP Legislature) picking a parking garage over funding for disabled people's dental care" — a program whose funding has been cut in part because of federal reductions in Medicaid payments.
"You point out that he tried to privatize Social Security. His tax policies hurt most Utahns. And that many Utahns will pay $1,600 more this year in gasoline prices than they did in 2004 when he was re-elected," Taylor said.
But, Cannon said, in the end, such arguments don't — and won't — dent Utahns' approval of the president.
"The president takes on the tough issues that resonate with Utahns," Cannon said. "We are where he is on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. In Utah, Bush will benefit our candidates. It is a big plus just to have him here for a day."