Poll: Huntsman Has High Voter Approval

Poll: Huntsman Has High Voter Approval

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Halfway through his first year in office, Gov. Jon Huntsman has won the approval of more than two-thirds of Utahns, according to a new poll.

The Salt Lake Tribune's poll of 400 adults, showed 73 percent give Huntsman the thumb's up. Just under 12 percent disapprove of the governor's performance so far.

About 16 percent of respondents said they couldn't judge the governor's performance.

"I don't feel like he's been in office long enough for me to get angry or happy with him," Salt Lake City resident Maggie Taylor says. "Nothing dramatic sticks out in my mind, pro or con."

The poll was conducted June 8-10 by Valley Research Inc. and has a margin or error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Huntsman puts little stock in poll numbers.

"Momentarily, of course, I am gratified," he told the newspaper. "But it's a snapshot in time. It's to be taken as a snapshot. Politics is a moving target."

The first six months in office can be tough. Huntsman has faced off with state legislators, deflected complaints about the openness of his office and weathered furor over his remodeling of state government.

Huntsman has applied his experience as diplomat to his new job.

He strategically let lawmakers have the spotlight during the 2005 legislative session, but still got much of what he wanted including a revamped Community and Economic Development Department, $10 million for Utah tourism, and a 4.5 percent increase in per-pupil student spending.

But lawmakers also refused Huntsman's push to end corporate income taxes. And they voted against Huntsman's support for tuition tax credits and a bill to give property inheritance rights and end-of-life decision-making power to unmarried couples.

Many lawmakers also give the governor high marks.

House Majority Whip Steve Urquhart credits Huntsman with "courage" to quickly and quietly sign two controversial bills -- one that cut state employee retirement benefits and another ending the practice of issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.

"Every candidate says they're going to be tough and burn political capital, but he truly does it," Urquhart says. "I get the sense that there's some urgency to Governor Huntsman."

That doesn't sit well with everyone.

Some say Huntsman has shown aloof indifference to rank-and-file state workers, political appointees and the public alike. More than 30 economic development workers were fired, as was the state's top utility watchdog, who was replaced with a former phone company lobbyist.

Citizen activists and state employee representatives also say they've have had limited access to the governor and his staff.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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