SALT LAKE CITY — BYU political scientists summoned a Bill Murray movie to explain their latest poll that shows a large majority of Utahns still want embattled Attorney General John Swallow to resign.
In "Stripes," Murray plays a down-on-his-luck cab driver who decides to turn his fortunes around by joining the Army. Before he can enlist, he needs to answer a question from the recruiter: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor?” Murray’s character says, “Convicted? No.” And his sidekick chimes in with, “Never convicted.”
Such seems to be the current condition of Swallow, according BYU political science professor Kelly Patterson, who posted the poll results at utahdatapoints.com. The website serves as a blog for BYU's Center of the Study of Elections and Democracy.
"With the news that the federal government has decided not to charge him, he can say, like the characters in 'Stripes,' 'Charged? No, never charged,'" Patterson wrote. "The salient question is whether or not that bit of news strengthens his position with Utah voters."
Patterson's colleague Quin Monson also posted the poll results on the role Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is playing in the ongoing federal government shutdown through his efforts to stall or stop the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
The poll found that most Utahns prefer that Lee compromise in his fight and that his favorability rating with voters is dropping, possibly making him vulnerable should he seek re-election in 2016.
Even though the U.S. Department of Justice decided not file criminal charges against Swallow after a monthslong investigation, the poll shows 71 percent of Utah voters still believe he should resign. That's down from 78 percent from the democracy center's last poll in June.
The survey showed 26 percent believe Swallow did something illegal, down 8 percent from June.
But the number of people who think he didn't do anything illegal but did something unethical rose to 66 percent from 62 percent. And those who say he did nothing unethical went up to 8 percent from 4 percent.
“Though there has been some small movement away from the conclusion that Swallow has done something illegal, overall less than 10 percent of respondents believe that the attorney general has acted ethically — a precarious position for the state’s chief law enforcement officer,” Patterson wrote.
On Lee, the poll found that 57 percent of Utahns believe he should be “more willing to compromise” in his fight, compared with 43 percent who said he should continue to “stand by his principles.”
In a Deseret News/KSL poll conducted Oct. 3 by Dan Jones & Associates, 56 percent of Utahns said it was not worth shutting down the government as part of the effort to repeal the health care law, while 37 percent said it was.
Both polls also looked at Lee's favorability rating. The BYU poll found that the junior senator's favorability declined from 50 percent in June to 40 percent in October. Forty-three percent approved of Lee in the Deseret News/KSL poll.
Monson said Lee, part of the tea party caucus in Congress, isn't paying enough attention to other voters.
"While Sen. Lee enjoys intense support from a vocal minority and seems to be representing their perspective very well, he does so at his own peril," Monson said. "The majority of Utah voters are looking for him to compromise, and if he fails to do so, he could face electoral consequences."
The poll was conducted Oct. 2-7 via email. There were 938 respondents, and the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.