Friday, July 22, 2011

Herbert popular, but in a close race with Matheson

On the face of it, Governor Gary Herbert couldn’t be safer for re-election. Herbert has a strong 51-32 approval rating and does well among Republican, 71-14, indicating he is not especially vulnerable to a primary challenge. Herbert even garners a significant amount of crossover support with 27% of Democrats approving compared to 58% who disapprove. Herbert’s approval among independents, 34-44, leaves much to be desired. However, in Utah this isn’t a big problem since half the state is Republican. While Herbert has an even lower approval among non-Mormons, 25-59, than his approval among Democrats, he more than makes up for it with a strong 62-20 approval rating with the Mormon majority in Utah.

It appears that Matheson can compete against almost any politician in Utah as despite Herbert’s strong ratings, he can hold Herbert to only a 45-43 lead. Against Matheson, Herbert’s support among Democrats comes to almost nothing as he trails Matheson 10-83 among Democrats while only leading Republicans 73-18. Herbert’s most disappointing numbers are among independents where Matheson beats him more than 2-1 by a 57-23 margin. There is a particularly large generational gap in Utah with those 18-29 supporting Matheson by a large 55-29 margin, while those over 65 favor Herbert 52-39.

Against candidates not named Matheson, Utah looks like it always does in the race for governor. Herbert holds a strong 55-32 lead over his 2010 challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, and a 56-29 lead against former Utah Attorney General Jan Graham. Against these candidates, Herbert garners more than twice as much support among Democrats than he loses among Republicans, while holding modest deficits with independents If Matheson doesn’t run, Herbert should have nothing to worry about.

It’s not that the other Democrats are unpopular; Corroon has a 33-29 favorability rating while Graham has a 27-18 spread, but it takes Matheson’s 59-28 rating for a Democrat to get anywhere near victory in Utah. It may be a good idea for Utah Republicans to think twice before redistricting Matheson out of a seat, as he could cause them serious trouble in a statewide election.

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