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Utahns believe the state is marching toward a better future and the nation as a whole is stumbling in the wrong direction, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune poll.

This close to Election Day the responses showed sharp partisan divides correlating fairly closely with Utah's broad opposition to President Barack Obama and support for Gov. Gary Herbert.

"One tends to follow the other," said Brad Coker, of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, who conducted the poll of 625 likely voters for The Tribune between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31. "Utah is a conservative Republican state. The country right now has a Democratic, more liberal leadership, so people feel more comfortable about what is going on in Utah."

Seventy-two percent of respondents believe the nation is on the wrong track. Broken down by political party, 97 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents hold that view, while only 13 percent of Democrats said the same thing.

The numbers are largely reversed when it comes to Utah, with a whopping 79 percent saying Utah is on the right track and that includes 93 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of independents and 39 percent of Democrats. The poll has a margin of error of four percentage points.

For Val Judd, a retiree living in Alpine, this question is all about jobs, wages and gas prices and on economic issues, and he says Obama has failed the nation.

"Obama is screwing up," he said. "In fact, I can't think of one good decision he's made unless it was to shoot Osama bin Laden."

And Judd, a conservative independent, thinks the president deserves none of the credit for the economic gains in Utah, where the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.4 percent and the housing market has started to rebound. The national unemployment rate is at 7.9 percent.

"Utah is headed in the right direction, but that is not because of Obama, that is because of the leadership in this state," Judd said.

Susan Pulsipher, a Republican from South Jordan, agrees with Judd about the direction of the nation and Utah, but she doesn't put as much blame on the shoulders of the president.

"I really don't feel that the president of the United States has enough power to control everything and everyone," she said, though she criticizes Obama and Congress for spending too much money and increasing the debt.

The Tribune asked Utahns what issue was most influential on their vote and the economy and jobs was far and away the leader with 46 percent, followed by taxes, government spending and balancing the budget which received 19 percent and reducing the national debt, which came in at 11 percent. Education is a big issue in the state but only got 7 percent in this poll, while health care has been a regular topic on the presidential trail but was singled out by only 6 percent of respondents.

These results mirror what Coker has found in polling conducted throughout the nation.

Pulsipher picked the economy but felt it was a tough choice because she sees the top three issues as largely intertwined.

"The reason I chose the one I did is because I think if we can get the economy going and create jobs we are going to solve some of the other issues along the way," she said.

By way of comparison, Utah's unemployment rate fell from 6.2 percent last October to 5.4 percent today, while nationally the rate went from 8.9 percent to 7.9 percent.

And yet the drop in unemployment, doesn't mean people are in a better financial spot now than they were four years ago. When asked, 45 percent of poll respondents said they were worse off, while 41 percent said they were the same and just 14 percent said their situation had improved.

Even this question displayed the deep partisan divide. Sixty percent of Republicans said they were in a financially worse situation, as did 43 percent of independents. Only 9 percent of Democrats agreed.

Twitter: @mattcanham

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