A new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll finds 80% of Utahns approve of the job Gov. Jon Huntsman is doing, with 67% saying his support of civil unions either makes no difference in their evaluation or makes them more likely to support him.
Further, Huntsman's disapproval rating rose from 7% one month ago, to 11% post-civil union announcement. Yes, that's within the margin of error.
And the intolerant Mormons? 47% of Utahns supported civil unions; 42% opposed them.
Let's not resort to cliches and say this turned out to be Much Ado About Nothing, because it clearly is something. The governor of the most religious, conservative state in the nation supports extending civil rights to gay couples, and finds more heads nodding approval than not.
Pollster Dan Jones:
"I don't think he took as hard of a hit as people had anticipated. When 2012 rolls around, he'll be on the short list."
As unfair as it might be, this may be step one in getting the Mormon stigma off his back. Strike that. Step 2. The Mitt Romney 2008 Controversy seems to have relieved many conservatives of the notion of imposing a religious litmus test on its nominee, if only because the idea of doctrinal parsing seems so divorced from making tax relief permanent or pursuing entitlement reform.
Who will benefit in 2012, Huntsman or Romney? It's not yet obvious. What is clear is that the Republican party is moving forward.
[Hat tip: Voice of Deseret]
UPDATE!: Utah TV station KSL reports on the same poll with the headline "Poll: Huntsman's endorsement of civil unions proves somewhat damaging".