Less than one year ago, the government was shutting down and Utah’s junior Senator was taking heat for it. A lot of heat. A public opinion poll conducted by BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy showed Senator at with a 40% approval rate and a 51% disapproval rating or a -11%.
Fast forward to yesterday: A new public opinion poll by Dan Jones and Associates for UtahPolicy.com shows Senator Lee now holds a 54% approval rating – a healthy 14 point increase. But, his disapproval rating has also dropped to 35%, for a net positive of +19. That’s a 30 point swing, folks.
If you look at the breakdown of the poll, it’s even better news. He has a 74% approval rate among Republicans, almost 40% among independents and more than one in 10 Democrats have a “highly favorable” impression of the job he’s doing.
The Salt Lake Tribune attributes the uptick to Senator Lee’s renewed focus on staying out of the news and possibly the pragmatic solutions he is proposing and the outreach he is doing to a number of different groups, including business leaders.
It’s worth noting that while staying out of the mainstream media, Senator Lee is using social media to get his message out. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, tele-town halls, live-streamed events, a HUGE mailing list with a lot of people who actually READ the emails and in-person town halls over the summer that saw thousands of people attend.
While there is no doubt that pragmatism and outreach have helped, his staffing changes have also had a huge impact on the the turn-around. This year’s changes have led to a cohesive team that works well together, that understands Utah’s unique political landscape and are really great at interpersonal skills. I mean really – is there anyone out there who dislikes Derek Brown or Ryan Wilcox, both former members of the Utah House? How about Boyd Matheson or Bette Arial? They and many others are stellar people with a long history of community service who are now serving their communities as part of Senator Lee’s office. Once again, we see what smart hiring decisions can do. Bravo to all involved.
One note of irony: Amidst the turn-around in public opinion and the softer, more pragmatic tone from Senator Lee, there is also a bit of revisionist history going on. LaVar Webb, a Republican lobbyist and political consultant said recently that there was only one Senator who dared to defy Senate leadership – but it wasn’t Mike Lee.
With perhaps the exceptions of Hatch and Matheson, [Utah’s Congressional delegation] won’t break out of a bad system, defy their leadership and caucus positions, and propose realistic, problem-solving legislation….. They go along with the crowd.
I’ll let you know when I stop laughing.