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MTN-MSU poll: Bullock, Daines most highly rated statewide officials

Posted at 12:03 PM, Jan 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 09:34:06-05

This is the final installment of a three-part series on MTN-MSU’s post-election poll

BOZEMAN – Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, and Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines are Montana’s most popular politicians on a statewide level, according to an MTN News-Montana State University post-election poll of state voters.

Bullock’s approval rating came in at 60% in the poll, which queried voters after last November’s election, and Daines scored a 58% approval rating.

President Donald Trump and two Montanan officials who won re-election last year, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte, rated slightly lower, but still scored at least a 50% approval rating.

The poll also asked voters for their stands on several key issues in the news or facing the state, including Medicaid expansion, state-financed pre-school and illegal immigration.

On those items, the poll indicates that Montanans overwhelmingly favor work requirements for adults whose health coverage is paid for by Medicaid, strongly believe that illegal immigration is a “serious problem” and generally favor the state offering publicly funded preschool.

Poll results are based on responses from 1,424 Montanans who replied to questionnaires mailed the day after the November 6 election. The questionnaires were sent to the 2,000 people who responded to MTN-MSU’s pre-election poll in late September and early October.

The results of the post-election poll have a margin of error plus-or-minus 2.6%

The poll asked Montanans a variety of questions about how and why they voted in the 2018 elections and where they stand on key issues facing the state and country.

Results on approval ratings and issues include:

Approval ratings: Sixty percent of those polled said they “strongly approved” or “approved” of the job done by Bullock, whose final term expires in 2020, and 58% said the same on Daines, who’s up for re-election that year.

Only 31% disapproved of Daines’ job so far as a senator and 35% disapproved of Bullock.

Bullock has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Daines in 2020, but the popular governor has indicated he’s more interested in running for president.

Each man had deep support from voters of their respective party, but they also enjoyed strong backing from Independents and some support among the opposite party. Seventy-two percent of self-described Independents and 33% of Republicans approved of Bullock; 56% of Independents and 26% of Democrats liked Daines.

President Trump and Sen. Tester each has a 53%t approval rating among Montana voters, according to the poll, and Gianforte scored a 50% approval rating. They all had about the same disapproval rating: 46% for Trump and 45% for Tester and Gianforte.

These last three figures also had much less cross-party appeal. Only 3% of Democrats approved of Gianforte or Trump and just 16% of Republicans liked Tester.

Tester, however, had the approval of 63% of Independents, while only 46% of them liked Trump and 40% approved of Gianforte.

The poll also asked voters to rate the job of former U.S. Interior Secretary and Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, who resigned his Interior job last month. Fifty-five percent said they approved of his work at Interior and 44% disapproved.

Direction of the country/state: Half of Montanans think the country is going in the right direction, while 42% said it’s headed down the wrong path. Democrats overwhelmingly chose “wrong direction” – 79% – while 85% of Republicans said “right direction.” Independents were more closely split, with 46% saying wrong direction and 42% saying right.

Fifty-four percent of Montana voters said the state is headed in the right direction, 29% said it’s not, and 17% didn’t know. A majority of all political sub-groups of Montanans said the state is headed in a positive direction: 64% of Democrats, 51% of Republicans and 53% of Independents.

Medicaid expansion: The poll asked whether the state should be allowed to impose some type of work requirements for able-bodied, low-income adults getting health coverage through government-funded Medicaid. The poll said 76% of Montanans “agreed” or “strongly agreed,” while only 13% said no.

The 2019 Legislature is considering whether to extend Medicaid expansion and modify it to include work or other requirements. The program provides health coverage for 95,000 low-income adults.

Illegal immigration: 65% of Montanans “strongly agree” or “agree” that it’s a “serious problem in the United States,” while only 24% said it’s not.

Publicly funded preschool: The poll asked if the state should have a publicly funded, voluntary pre-school program – which also is being proposed by Gov. Bullock at the 2019 Legislature. Forty-nine percent of Montanans say yes; 28% say no. Twenty-three percent either don’t know or don’t have an opinion.

Guns in schools: Forty-six percent of Montanans said that teachers should be allowed to carry guns in schools, but 42% said they should not.

Federal lands: A whopping 89% of Montanans agree or strongly agree that it’s important to protect federal lands in the state. Only 4% disagreed.

Republican 2017 federal tax cut: The poll asked Montanans if they approve of the 2017 federal tax-cut law, enacted by Republicans in Congress. Forty-six percent said they approve, 38% disapproved and 15% didn’t know.

`Obamacare’: The poll asked Montanans’ view on the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform measure also known as “Obamacare.” Only 36% said they favor it, while 48% said they oppose it. Fourteen percent said they neither oppose nor support it.

The responses here fell largely along party lines, with 75% of Democrats in favor and 79% of Republicans opposed. Independents were almost evenly split: 42% support it and 39% oppose.

Income inequality: The poll asked whether the federal government should pursue policies to reduce income inequality in the United States. Forty-eight percent of Montanans said it should; 35% said it should not. Eighteen percent either didn’t know or had no opinion.

The responses here also tended to follow party lines. Eighty-three percent of Democrats wanted policies to reduce income inequality and 56% of Republicans did not – although 24% of Republicans did. Forty-eight percent of Independents want the government to do something about income inequality; 33% did not.

-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News