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Poll: Trump's unpopularity could swing Utahns to Hillary

Published June 12, 2016 9:18 am

Clinton, Trump disliked; Libertarian Johnson draws double-digit support.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Donald Trump's brash swagger and outlandish behavior have made him so unpopular in Utah that a new poll shows the state could swing to Hillary Clinton in November, potentially becoming the first time in 52 years that a Democrat has won the Beehive State.

Clinton and Trump are knotted at 35 percent, with five months of campaigning remaining before the election, according to the survey conducted for The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson draws 13 percent, a remarkably strong showing for the candidate who garnered 1.2 percent as the party's candidate four years ago.



"For a state where the majority of voters have supported Republican presidential candidates since 1964, the fact that Trump is in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton suggests Utah voters are still very reluctant about a Trump presidency," said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute.

The Clinton campaign said the poll shows that, even in Utah, voters are turned off by the GOP nominee.

"This is just the latest sign that Americans of all political stripes just aren't buying what Donald Trump is selling and agree he is unfit and unqualified to be president," said Clinton spokeswoman Lily Adams. "From his career of scamming Americans to his divisive and racist rhetoric, Utahns can't afford Donald Trump's America."

Messages to the Trump campaign were not returned Friday.

But the biggest Election Day winner may be whoever opens the nose-plug concession as Utahns will largely be holding their noses as they vote. Sixty-seven percent of those polled have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton and 65 percent dislike Trump.

Trump struggles most with voters in the 18-34 age group and women. Clinton is likewise viewed unfavorably by younger voters and by 79 percent of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The discontent seems to be driving Johnson's numbers to a level of support that no third-party candidate has seen since Texas billionaire Ross Perot finished second in Utah in 1992, winning 27 percent of the vote. George H.W. Bush led that contest in Utah and Bill Clinton, who won the White House that year, finished third, the only state where Clinton fared so badly.

"It's interesting that Libertarian Gary Johnson is polling in double digits, especially since he's gotten significantly less media exposure this cycle," Perry said. "Clearly, there is a segment of the Utah population that is still willing to consider a third-party candidate."

Leonard Eversole of Bountiful, for example, said he has cast ballots only for Republicans in the presidential election since he was first old enough to vote in the 1960 race between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Not this time, however.

This year, Eversole said he will probably be voting for Johnson.

"I'm not going to vote for Clinton and I'm not going to vote for Trump," he said. "What's different? Trump's big mouth."

"I'm not Muslim, by the way, but the Muslim thing was the most ridiculous," Eversole said, referring to the GOP candidate's proposal to bar any Muslims from emigrating to the United States. "There was no manner of testing or anything, just 'no Muslims' and that's ridiculous. That's discrimination if ever there was any."

Lee Carrillo of South Ogden supported Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the primary, but said she plans to vote for Clinton in November.

"Like most people, I think I'm pretty dismayed by the candidates, but I think Hillary Clinton is probably going to be … a more effective president. But I don't like either one of them," she said. "I think [Trump] is practically a maniac. Everyone talks about, 'Oh, he's so smart with money,' or whatever. I just think he has no qualifications for president, and I haven't liked one single thing I heard him say."

Trump's weakness in Utah predates his becoming the presumptive Republican nominee. In the March caucuses, Trump won just 14 percent of the Utah GOP vote, being crushed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and finishing just behind Kasich.

Clinton fared only marginally better, winning 20 percent of the Democratic vote as she was trounced by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In a head-to-head matchup against Trump, Sanders would fare only slightly better than Clinton, the poll showed. Sanders edged Trump, 37 percent to 35 percent, still essentially a tie.

"Bernie Sanders is polling statistically the same as Hillary Clinton, which shows Utah Democrats are staying loyal to their party even though they remain divided on their candidate," Perry said.

Lyn Felton of Salt Lake City was a Sanders supporter, although he acknowledges that, if he were elected president, Sanders would likely have an even harder time working with the Republican Congress than Barack Obama has.

"I've always felt that I'm kind of disenfranchised in Utah because, no matter who I vote for, chances are it's going to be a Republican [winning]," said Felton, a self-described moderate Democrat. "Does Hillary have a chance? Yes. But I think it's a long time between now and November. And even though you say it's tied right now, a lot of things could happen that could turn the tide. … I think Trump has the potential to hurt himself more than Hillary does."

While months of campaigning remain, 71 percent of voters polled said that their mind is made up. Twenty-six percent said they could still change their mind. Republican respondents indicated they are more open to changing their mind before Election Day than Democrats.

Albert Scholz of Lapoint, west of Vernal, is among those who hasn't made up his mind.

"It looks like a mess to me," he said. "There's nobody that I like."

Supporting Clinton is out of the question, he said, because he considers himself to be very conservative and the Democrat would continue "leading us down, just like Obama." But reports about Trump's business troubles and lawsuits and his lack of experience dissuade him from backing the Republican.

"I'll vote, but it'll be a different strategy. I'll vote to try to keep somebody out of there rather than getting someone in there," said Scholz, who predicts Republicans will avoid Trump and Clinton will win in November.

One factor that could sway voters is the fact that the next president will nominate at least one and probably several justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Forty percent of those polled said that fact makes it more likely that they would vote for Trump, while 30 percent said it pushes them toward Clinton.

Another possible tipping point could be whom the candidates choose as their respective running mates. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said the vice presidential pick will matter a lot in their decision; 46 percent said it will matter a little and 24 percent said it will make no difference.

Holding with the national trend, Trump performs better among male voters while Clinton, the first female candidate to win a major party presidential nomination, has the edge among women. Mormon voters favor Trump over Clinton, 41 percent to 22 percent.

Johnson draws his support from younger voters and those who are Republicans or who tend to lean toward the GOP and describe themselves as very conservative or somewhat conservative — a clear sign that he is eating into what would normally be Trump's base of support.

Asked about the quality of all candidates running for public office this year, just one in four Utahns ranked them as good or excellent.

A bit more than a third ranked them as fair and 37 percent described them as poor.

The poll was commissioned by The Tribune and Hinckley Institute and conducted between June 2 and June 8, the same time period in which Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination.

The pollster, SurveyUSA, contacted 1,238 likely voters by using automated calls to reach voters on their home phones and online surveys sent to cellphone users. The overall poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

gehrke@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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