By MATT CANHAM | The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published 2 hours ago

Christopher Dolan | AP file photo Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears to be gaining among Utah voters

They may not love him, but it appears Utah voters are coming to terms with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

A new poll of registered voters released Monday shows Trump has opened up a lead over the two remaining Democratic candidates. The same poll a month earlier showed Trump tied with Hillary Clinton, the most likely Democratic nominee, and trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Now, after a Dan Jones & Associates poll from May 2-10, Trump has built a 13 percentage point lead on Clinton and he holds a six-point advantage on Sanders.

Still, Trump, who got trounced in Utah's GOP presidential caucuses by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, only picked up the support of 43 percent of the respondents, a sign many conservative voters are still uneasy about the bombastic billionaire and reality TV star. The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points and depending on the matchup, at least 20 percent of respondents remained undecided.

"It is a very, very bumpy year," said Jones, the pollster. "As things keep coming out, the opinion will fluctuate. Right now, the people of Utah aren't really enthusiastic about either of the two potential nominees."

But Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, expects that to change in the weeks and months to come as more voters compare Trump to the eventual Democratic nominee.

"People's comfort level with Donald Trump will grow," said Hughes, an early Trump supporter. "He is the unconventional candidate. He's not the establishment's preferred choice. He'll have to earn people's support."

Jones believes Trump hit a low in Utah when 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney slammed him during a speech in early March, but has improved not only because he has bested the rest of the Republican field, but also because heavyweights such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have rallied behind the presumptive nominee.

"I'm surprised they turned around so quickly, but I think Orrin Hatch had a lot of impact," Jones said. "I still think Mr. Trump has to be careful with some of the things he says and his language."

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, who is a national delegate supporting Clinton, says Trump's rising poll numbers make sense in such a conservative state.

"Republicans are very good about falling in line once they know who their candidate is," she said. "For them, it is all about winning."

She was skeptical that UtahPolicy's early poll results would hold.

"Utahns in general, they stick to their clan and they stick to their party, so I'm not surprised those numbers are starting to change," Chavez-Houck said. "Unless they have something else to choose from, they'll stick with their guy."

Romney, who now lives in Utah, is among a group of Republicans that has tried to recruit someone to run as an independent candidate, but has so far been unsuccessful.