As expected, Utah's Republican Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. has taken a hit in the polls since announcing in favor of civil unions on February 9th, 2009, only three days after openly-gay State Rep. Jackie Biskupski (D-Salt Lake) withdrew a proposed bill (HJR2) that would have excised the clause banning civil unions from Amendment 3.
On February 16th, both KSL Channel 5 and the Deseret News reported that a recent Dan Jones poll of 313 voters reveals that Governor Huntsman's basic approval rating remains high, at 80 percent. But that approval isn't as rock solid as it once was, down from the historic high of 90 percent in January. Here are the specific numbers:
Does the Governor's stance on civil unions change your opinion of him?
-- More Favorable: 26 percent
-- No Difference: 41 percent
-- Less Favorable: 32 percent
-- Don't Know: 1 percent
But Governor Huntsman's announcement may be softening opposition to civil unions statewide. A Mason-Dixon poll taken from January 8-9 indicated that 70 percent of respondents opposed civil unions. In contrast, the Dan Jones poll shows a different result.
Position on civil unions:
-- Support: 47 percent
-- Oppose: 42 percent
-- Don't Know: 11 percent
Yes, it's two separate polls run by different pollsters with different methodologies, but there's a clear-cut trend towards a softening of opposition to civil unions, even if it may be exaggerated. The governor's announcement has undoubtedly been a contributing factor.
But there's opposition, which has coalesced around conservative members of the state legislature like Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan), as well as pro-family lobbies like Eagle Forum Utah. In addition, while most of the local gay community welcomed Huntsman's announcement, a few accused him of being opportunistic. In a February 15th LTE to the Salt Lake Tribune, Dan Wade wrote that Huntsman "played it safe by waiting until it is evident that none of the initiatives will pass before proclaiming his support". And the timing of Huntsman's announcement does appear opportunistic; he waited until Biskupski threw up the white flag and scuttled HJR2, then suddenly came out and announced his support for civil unions. While I don't agree with civil unions, Biskupski deserved better treatment than that. To her credit, she did not question Huntsman's timing publicly.
The civil union issue isn't the only problem conservatives have with Huntsman. Recently, he refused to join 30 other state governors in commemorating the 98th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's birthday (Feb 6) by proclaiming it "Ronald Reagan Day". But that's a relatively minor detail compared to Huntsman's support of the cap-and-trade carbon cult. Governor Huntsman has supported Utah participation in the Western Climate Initiative’s (WCI) Cap and Trade program. Already, he's shaping up to be more of a RINO than Chris Cannon. Of course, Huntsman has disavowed any intent to seek a third gubernatorial term in 2012, but he is considered Presidential timber, and conservatives have already circled the wagons and said that either one of their own runs for President or they won't vote Republican.
Jon Hunstman may be younger than John McCain, but is he any smarter?