Mayor Rocky Anderson remains a popular guy in Salt Lake City except among LDS Church members.
So while state lawmakers, Davis County residents and others in conservative Utah might love to hate the state's most controversial mayor, his constituency is still in his corner.
In a new survey for the Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV, pollster Dan Jones & Associates found Anderson's job approval rating is 59 percent about the same as it was in December 2002, just after the Main Street Plaza fray. The poll found 38 percent of city residents disapproved of the job Anderson is doing.
The poll, conducted March 7-10 and 14, included 268 city residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.5 percent.
"He really is a marked man in Davis County," Jones noted, explaining that Anderson's frequent anti-Legacy Parkway speeches have raised the ire of Salt Lake City's neighbors.
But within the borders of Utah's capital city, "there are those that really like what he's done," Jones said. "They like that he's a free spirit and not afraid to share his opinions about issues he feels strongly about."
Besides bashing Legacy, Anderson has called some state lawmakers "extremist Republicans" and criticized many of their policies. Anderson's approach has at times rubbed people the wrong way, and City Council members have publicly encouraged the mayor to use more tact.
Still, former City Councilman Lee Martinez maintains Anderson's sometimes cavalier attitude endears him to many Salt Lake City residents who don't feel they are represented by the conservative state Legislature.
"With Rocky, we have someone that stands up for those of us who differ from the majority," Martinez said. "He's elected to represent Salt Lake City, not the rest of the state."
But even within the city, Anderson has some work to do to heal his relationship with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In August 2002, Anderson's approval rating among LDS Church members was 53 percent, an all-time high.
Then in October 2002, the Main Street Plaza fray erupted, and Anderson said he didn't support a plan to give the city's public-access easement across the plaza to the church.
That stance angered many LDS faithful, and by December 2002 his approval rating among LDS members had slipped to 36 percent. His overall job approval rating dipped from 69 percent to 60 percent during the same time.
In the poll Jones conducted this month, Anderson's approval rating among 102 "very active" LDS Church members was 26 percent, with 73 percent disapproving. Among all LDS Church members polled this month, 31 percent approved of Anderson's job, with 66 percent disapproving.
Anderson has tried to help bridge the city's religious divide, which often pits LDS Church members against those of other faiths, by conducting community meetings to discuss religious issues. At the same time, Anderson has also called for more religious diversity among members of the City Council, all of whom at least nominally belong to the LDS Church.
"I'm sorry that there is still evidence of a religious divide, and we would really like to close that gap," City Council Chairman Dale Lambert said.
That said, the mayor "has a significant support group in the city," Lambert said, noting most elected officials generally get high marks among voters, otherwise they wouldn't be in office. "That's not unusual for an officeholder," he said.
Anderson's lower rating among the city's LDS constituency may also be attributed to his politics. LDS Church members are generally politically conservative and among political conservatives Anderson, a political liberal, didn't receive good marks.
Among 40 people who said they were "very conservative," 88 percent disapproved of the mayor's performance. Of the 77 poll respondents who said they were "somewhat conservative," 58 percent disapproved of Anderson's job.
Anderson received high marks from both Catholics and Protestants. Among city Protestants, 87 percent said they approved of Anderson, while 74 percent of city Catholics approved.Comment on this story
From a political perspective, Anderson may be one of the few politicians in the state who doesn't need LDS support to win an election. Jones found 45 percent of the city is LDS with 55 percent belonging to other religions or no religion. In the 2003 election, exit polls showed 81 percent of LDS Church members voted against Anderson while 81 percent of non-LDS Church members voted for him.Anderson has not decided whether he will run for a third term, although he is not currently building a war chest to fund such a run. Anderson didn't respond to a request to comment on the poll results.