President Donald Trump walks from the White House through Lafayette Park to visit St. John's Church on June 1, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Trump's popularity eroding in Utah, especially among women

(RNS) — President Donald Trump’s re-election chances seem to be slipping away, and even some Mormons are deserting him.

Nationwide, the spread between the Democrats' presumptive nominee Joe Biden and Trump has widened. In March, Biden led by just four points, and then by five or six in April and May. As of this writing, Biden is ahead in FiveThirtyEight’s average of political polls to the tune of 9.5 points nationally.

Biden’s lead now pertains in almost every swing state that could prove critical in the November election, including Michigan (+10.7), Wisconsin (+9.7), Pennsylvania (+8.1), Florida (+7.3), Arizona (+4.8), and North Carolina (+2.9).

It’s a sign of Trump’s troubles that even Mormon-majority Utah, which has not been competitive for a Democratic candidate in over 50 years, is growing colder toward the president.

Trump is now 7.5 points ahead of Biden in Utah. Four months ago, he was more than 19 points ahead. Screen shot from FiveThirtyEight: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/utah/.

Trump is still likely to win Utah, where he’s currently polling ahead of Biden by 7.5 points. But in late February, before the pandemic, he was more than 19 points ahead.

And that 19 points was actually close by Utah standards. Given the fantastical 40- and 50-point sweeps of previous Republican candidates in this reddest of states, a single-digit lead is a disaster. In 2012, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama here by 73% to 25%. And in 1984, Ronald Reagan trounced Walter Mondale with nearly 75% of the vote.

A majority of Utah voters (52%) now say they disapprove of the way Trump is doing his job, according to the Utah Policy Center. What’s more, they are decisive about it. Of those 52%, 46% “strongly” disapprove of the president’s job performance, with only 6% choosing the less impassioned option of being “somewhat” disapproving.

This is not a halfhearted rejection.

Let's look at how religion fits into the equation. Utah’s polling average tells us a good deal about how Mormons vote, but it’s far from a perfect equivalency. With every year, Utah is a little bit less Mormon. More outsiders have been moving into the state, drawn by its robust pre-pandemic economy and natural beauty. In 2018, about six in ten Utahns were on the rolls as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though that includes many people who no longer attend.

So it's possible that it's just the non-Mormon residents of Utah who disapprove of the president and don’t plan to vote for him.

Possible, but not true, as it turns out.

According to the Utah Policy Center/KUTV poll, four in ten Latter-day Saints in the state disapprove of Trump. This means he still has majority approval among Utah Mormons, but that his approval rating is much softer than it has been for previous GOP presidents.

President Donald Trump speaks to a smaller than anticipated crowd during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

There’s also a serious gender gap showing Trump’s ongoing problems with women voters. Fully half of “very active” Mormon women in Utah (50%) disapprove of Trump, compared to just 34% of “very active” Mormon men.

And that’s just the “very active” church members. Among the smaller number who say they are “somewhat” active, Trump fares even worse among women. Nearly six in ten of the “somewhat active” Mormon women disapprove of the job he’s doing. (The numbers for men are basically the same as for the “very active” group—33% instead of 34%.)

In a different study at the beginning of 2020, a national poll showed better numbers for Trump: Only 44% of Mormon women disapproved of him at that time. And last year, a Pew study indicated that 45% of women disapproved. In both of those studies, men’s disapproval was consistently polling around one-third, the same as in the Utah Policy Center study.

It’s not clear from the surveys what may be driving this: the president's haphazard way of handling the coronavirus, the nation’s high unemployment rate, or perhaps his bombastic personality may all be factors. Many people have commented on the president’s continual self-absorption, tendency to blame others, and tendency to hate-tweet.

He's known to exact vengeance for what he perceives as personal attacks. In April Trump conspicuously omitted Utah Senator Mitt Romney from the economic task force charged with reopening the country. All 52 other GOP Senators were given an invitation. Trump said he did not invite Romney because he holds a grudge against him: Romney was the only Republican Senator to vote in favor of removing the president from office after his impeachment.

“I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney,” the president said. “I don’t really want his advice.”

But given that Mitt Romney has a higher approval rating in Utah than the president does, some of that advice could come in handy.


Related columns:

What history tells us about Donald Trump’s re-election prospects

Donald Trump’s Mormon problem continues, study shows

10 ways that Utah Mormons are a breed apart