By Jim Ellis
Jan. 30, 2017 — Five years ago, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) publicly stated during his tense sixth re-election effort that he was running his last campaign. With the current term now beginning to approach what might be the end of his senatorial service that spans more than 40 years, Sen. Hatch’s most recent political statements indicate that he is at least considering seeking re-election yet again.
Local Utah polling firm Dan Jones & Associates recently conducted a survey (Jan. 9-16) of 605 of the state’s registered voters for the Salt Lake City Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics. The findings suggest that the overwhelming majority of Utahans feel that Sen. Hatch should, in fact, retire. According to the respondents, 78 percent said they don’t believe he should seek re-election, and 58 percent describe their opinion as definite. In terms of job approval, however, Hatch’s favorability ratio is better: 51:47 percent positive to negative.
From the Dan Jones poll, former Gov. Jon Huntsman would defeat Sen. Hatch in a Republican primary by a whopping 62-21 percent, but this is a misleading statistic. The sample group is comprised of 605 registered voters at large, not only Republicans. When just self-identified GOP voters are segmented (the number is not released), Huntsman’s margin decreases to 49-35 percent. This latter tally is obviously not favorable to Sen. Hatch either, but it’s obviously an improvement when compared to the general sample response.
The previous results are skewed because Democrats and Independents are rendering input for a Republican primary, which, in Utah, doesn’t happen. While the Democrats hold open primaries here, Republicans do not. Therefore, only registered Republicans are eligible to participate in a GOP primary. Additionally, when isolating the Republican cell segment from this poll, we see a group that is almost assuredly too small – likely considerably less than 300 — to draw an accurate conclusion for a statewide campaign.