Rep. Chris Stewart came in with the lowest favorable rating of 45 percent and an unfavorable rating of 18 percent. Rep. Rob Bishop received 51 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable. Rep. Jason Chaffetz polled at 53 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable. Freshman Congresswoman Rep. Mia Love rated at 52 percent favorable. However, she also garnered the highest unfavorable ranking with 39 percent of registered voters in her district giving her a thumbs down.
So does Utah’s declining approval with its representatives have anything to do with a total single-party dominance of state politics? I’m going to say it does, and it can be described in one word: gerrymandering.
In Utah, as in many other states, U.S. congressional districts are approved by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor. Since the Utah State Legislature is currently comprised of 24 Republican senators out of 29 and 63 Republican house members out of 75, the Utah Republican party can cut, slice, graft, and splice legislative districts in pretty much anyway they choose. One only has to look at how Matheson’s (or any other Democratic congressional candidate’s) hope for continued re-election got slowly ground into the stuff that pipe dreams are made of.
The Independent successfully contacted the chairs of both the Democratic and Republican parties here in Washington County for comment on these latest approval poll numbers. As can be expected, the responses were quite different, but I feel it’s valuable to allow local party leaders to offer a statement.
Washington County Republican Party chair, Robert Jensen said, “While I hesitate to put too much stock in polling data, I suspect the lower reported ratings are simply a function of Utahn’s disappointment with Congress and the federal government as a whole. Utahns are expecting improvement, and we will see them being more and more watchful, especially in this upcoming presidential election year. This election cycle, Republicans gained nine seats in the Senate alone. Fiscally and politically conservative Americans are making their voice heard. Utah voters are no different.”
Jensen went on to add, “Additionally, while I haven’t read the survey itself, I am skeptical of polls generally and the inevitable statistical gerrymandering. Notice that one of the articles—I believe it was the article dealing with Senator Lee—appeared to use ‘less conservative’ and ‘moderate’ to designate non similar voters. Such confusion in terms renders the survey results questionable at best.”
The chair for the Washington County Democratic Party, Zachary Almaguer, sees the declining approval numbers both as evidence of voter disappointment in Utah’s Republican Party and as an opportunity for Democrats to gain traction among disaffected citizens.
“As a party here in Washington County, we are not surprised at the findings of the recent Jones poll,” said Almaguer. “These low approval figures only continue to express that the Republican Legislature, both in D.C. and in the State Congress, remain out of touch with the voters in their districts. These are not just critiques of a few leaders but of the party in the State as a whole. … Here in Washington County, water is perhaps the one issue that affects us all,” continued Almaguer. “Despite ongoing waste and ever increasing use, the conservatives here feel the solution is to drain an already overtaxed water source, Lake Powell, and then place the burden of payment onto the shoulders of the tax payers… Democrats should seize upon this opportunity to remind voters that larger social issues are important and the national debates will continue, but we should be voting on the issues that affect us locally.”
You know where I stand. Now it’s time to decide if party comes before people.
Written by: Marcos Camargo who moved to Utah to find his place in the world and fell in love with the deserts of America’s arid country.