39% say they'd vote for Herbert

Also, most Utahns see soon-to-be governor as conservative, poll finds

By Lisas Riley Roche

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 8 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Most Utahns see soon-to-be Gov. Gary Herbert as conservative, even though one-third said they want their new leader to be moderate.

That's according to a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll that also found only 39 percent would vote for Herbert if he's the GOP nominee in next year's special gubernatorial election.

Even more respondents, 42 percent, said whether they'd vote for Herbert would depend on who else was running or that they didn't know yet how they'd vote.

The statewide poll of 402 residents was conducted Aug. 3-5 by Dan Jones & Associates. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

"Gary Herbert has got to get out and sell that he represents all Utahns," rather than a particular ideology, said pollster Dan Jones. "I would tell him to be more moderate than people think he is."

Fifty-two percent of Utahns surveyed labeled Herbert as conservative and 56 percent said that's what they want their governor to be. "Utah is one of the most conservative states," Jones said.

Even so, 33 percent said the governor should be moderate. Only 12 percent of respondents described Herbert as moderate but 34 percent said they didn't know what his political ideology and philosophy is.

"He's not really been in a position to display that," said University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank. "What we haven't seen is a whole lot of Gary Herbert front and center on the big issues."

As lieutenant governor, Herbert remained quiet when he disagreed with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. on the governor's support for addressing climate change and gay rights, including civil unions for nontraditional couples.

Burbank said Utahns are still getting to know their new governor, who will be sworn in Tuesday now that Huntsman has been confirmed as ambassador to China by the U.S. Senate.

What this shows is he's played his role. He's been second in command," Burbank said.

Despite what they don't know about Herbert, Utahns are still optimistic about what his administration will bring.

Forty-one percent said Herbert would have a positive impact on the state and only 6 percent, a negative impact. Just over a quarter of respondents, 27 percent, predicted he would have little impact and 26 percent said they didn't know.

Herbert's transition director, Jason Perry, said the new governor and lieutenant governor "need to go out and earn their stripes" with voters before the special election in 2010 for the remainder of Huntsman's term.

"What I think people are going to find very interesting about Gov. Herbert is how inclusive he is," Perry said. "He is an individual who listens, who wants to do what's best for the state and that's more important to him than any label that some choose to give him."

Herbert made his first major decision in his new role earlier this week, naming a moderate Republican to be his lieutenant governor, Senate Majority Assistant Whip Greg Bell of Fruit Heights.

Bell had unsuccessfully carried controversial legislation for Huntsman in the past that would have extended benefits to gay and other nontraditional couples and helped pass legislation allowing Salt Lake City to have a domestic partnership registry.

Herbert was pressured by the conservative Eagle Forum to reject Bell. But Herbert said he chose Bell because he wanted his administration to represent a broader perspective, similar to what he brought to Huntsman's ticket.

e-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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