Who are Utah’s most respected public figures? Interestingly, among the top five, only one is an incumbent elected official. Three out of four top ratings go to business icons from prominent families: Jon Huntsman Sr., Gail Miller and Spencer Eccles Jr. Former Gov. Mike Leavitt ties with Eccles at the No. 3 spot.
The top-rated incumbent politician just happens to be a Democrat: Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, at No. 5. Gov. Gary Herbert is No. 6, making him and McAdams the only two incumbent elected officials in the top 12. The next-highest-rated incumbent is another Democrat — Congressman Jim Matheson, at No. 13.
These insights are provided by recent research conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. The polling firm conducted a series of surveys over the past few months with sample sizes of more than 800 active voters in each of the polls, with possible margins of error less than 3.5 percent, plus or minus.
It is perhaps not surprising that business leaders generally enjoy higher favorability than politicians. The business leaders, unlike the elected officials, don’t deal as much with controversial issues and aren’t in the public eye making difficult decisions and receiving criticism.
In three different surveys, pollsters asked respondents to rate favorability of Utah leaders. Among those rated were incumbent politicians, potential candidates and other prominent Utahns. Some of those listed are not well known, and many respondents had no opinion of them.
Pollsters asked respondents to indicate on a 1-4 scale whether they have a favorable or unfavorable impression of each person, with 1 being very favorable; 2, somewhat favorable; 3, somewhat unfavorable, and 4, very unfavorable. Responses of participants who had no opinion or who had not heard of the individual were not included in the calculations.
Following are the combined results, with mean scores, beginning with those with highest favorability to those with lowest favorability. Because results differed slightly on the different surveys, each person’s best rating is listed here. A lower mean score means higher favorability:
Jon Huntsman Sr., 1.49; Gail Miller, 1.67; Mike Leavitt, 1.85; Spencer Eccles Jr., 1.85; Ben McAdams, 1.90; Gary Herbert, 1.98; Josh Romney, 1.99; Greg Miller, 2.00; Norma Matheson, 2.05; Kirk Jowers, 2.05; Jon Huntsman Jr., 2.08; Greg Bell, 2.11; Jim Matheson, 2.21; Derek Miller, 2.22; Jason Chaffetz, 2.24; Chris Stewart, 2.30; Lane Beattie, 2.30; Ralph Becker, 2.30; Scott Howell, 2.32; Mia Love, 2.33; Becky Lockhart, 2.34; Dan Liljenquist, 2.35; Rob Bishop, 2.36; Thomas Wright, 2.36; Mike Lee, 2.44; and Bob Fuehr, 2.73.
Pollsters also assessed the favorability of the Utah Legislature, President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress. The Legislature did reasonably well, with a mean score of 2.40, while Obama and Congress rated worst of all, with 3.15 and 3.31 scores, respectively, falling between the “somewhat unfavorable” and “very unfavorable” levels.
Results also showed that nearly 80 percent of active Utah voters feel the United States is headed in the wrong direction, while a majority feels Utah is moving in the right direction. That’s a strong endorsement of Utah’s leadership and management.
Other interesting results:
Air quality is an important issue for Utah voters, with 69 percent of respondents rating it a 4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale (with 5 being the highest importance).
Utah voters are fairly conservative, with 55 percent of respondents identifying themselves as very or somewhat conservative, compared with only 21 percent identifying themselves as somewhat or very liberal.
Jobs and the economy are identified as the No. 1 issue facing both the United States and Utah. Other key issues are the Affordable Care Act, education, air quality and gridlock in Congress.
A. Scott Anderson is CEO and president of Zions Bank.