A new poll conducted by Brigham Young University’s Center For the Study of Elections and Democracy finds that only 40 percent of Utah voters have a favorable impression of Senator Lee, down from 50 percent in June — 51 percent of voters view Lee unfavorably.
Lee’s declining approval is likely due to his role in the crusade against the Affordable Care Act that resulted in the ongoing government shutdown. Lee’s callous response to questions about his own paycheck — last week he told KUTV, “I’m working. I’ll continue to be paid” during the shutdown — certainly hasn’t helped. (He later clarified that he was misquoted and intends on donating a portion of his salary to charity.)
Trying to justify his role in the shutdown, Lee released a statement on Thursday in which he claimed he does not care about how voters perceive him, because his only concern is the “percentage of Utahns who are feeling the negative effects of Obamacare through lost jobs, wages, hours, and health care.”
Chances are he will start caring once 2016 approaches, and he realizes he has lost significant support from Republicans and Independents in Utah.
Although 90 percent of those who identify themselves as “active in the Tea Party” say Lee “should stand by his principles, even when the result is a government shutdown,” Lee’s favorability among Republicans overall dropped from 71 percent in June to 57 percent today.
Among Democrats, 99 percent believe that Lee “should be more willing to compromise, even if that means passing a budget with funding for the Affordable Care Act.” A large number of Independents – 65 percent – agree. Overall, 57 percent of voters want the senator to compromise.
The declining support for Lee could be a problem if he seeks re-election 2016.
Quin Monson, director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said “it’d be very difficult to predict the outcome of a Republican primary if he [Mike Lee] was faced with a capable and visible moderate-to-conservative Republican.”
He added that Democratic representative Jim Matheson — who is considered a likely opponent for Lee in 2016 — is “someone who should really make Senator Lee nervous.”
According to the poll, Matheson has a favorable-unfavorable ratio of 58 percent to 36 percent among Utah voters. More surprisingly, among Republican voters, his favorable-unfavorable ratio is 52 percent to 40 percent, demonstrating the Democrat’s bipartisan appeal.
Besides Matheson, Senator Lee might also have to worry about running against former Utah Republican Party chairman Thomas Wright, who is considering a Senate bid.
Lee, who has shown no inclination to compromise during his time in Washington, looks like he’ll have his hands full if he runs for re-election. As Kirk Jowers, the head of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, noted, “Utahns expect effectiveness and efficiency and results out of their government, not ideological tantrums.”
The poll surveyed 938 voters between October 2 and October 7. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr