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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
FILE - President Donald Trump shakes the hand of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, after Hatch spoke at the Capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City on Dec 4, 2017. Trump was in Salt Lake City to announce reductions to the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments. Mormons nationwide gave Trump a 61 percent approval rating over the past year, higher than any religious group, in polling released Friday by Gallup.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormons nationwide gave President Donald Trump a 61 percent approval rating over the past year, higher than any religious group, in polling released Friday by Gallup.

More than 2,200 Mormons were interviewed, the polling company said, and the results for the faith has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. Muslims gave Trump the lowest approval rating of any religious group, 18 percent.

The results, based on more than 122,000 interviews conducted as part of the national pollster's daily tracking throughout 2017, compare to a 39 percent national average approval rating for the president.

"At first glance, it seems surprising given everything that we've read and seen" since Trump finished a distant third in the March 2016 Utah Republican caucus vote, said BYU political science professor Quin Monson, a pollster himself.

But Monson said the poll is measuring support for the president's policies, not necessarily how he has conducted himself in office — something that has turned off many Mormons.

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"They're happy with some of his policies but unhappy with his style — very unhappy in some cases," Monson said. "With a normal Republican president, I would expect his approval among Mormons to be in the high 70s."

For the plurality of Mormons, their backing of Trump is "sort of lukewarm approval," he said. "This is not the same sort of gung-ho enthusiasm you might get for a Republican president. It's lukewarm. It's tepid. It's begrudging."

Monson said Mormons, who are "the most Republican and the most conservative" among faiths, may be pleased with the economy and the president's Supreme Court pick, but "wish he'd stop saying and doing such awful things."

Support has likely declined among Mormons and members of other faiths over the first year of Trump's presidency, he said, based on other national polls, so a number aggregated over 2017 may be misleading.

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Trump ended up winning Utah in the presidential election, but with just 45.5 percent of the vote, his lowest margin of victory across the country despite the state being among the most Republican in the country.

"What I say with a lot of confidence is the percentage of Mormons who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 was much lower than the percentage of white evangelicals," Monson said.

He questioned the poll having a single category for all Protestant and other Christian faiths that included evangelicals, who make up a significant portion of the base of Trump's support.