The yearly Montana State University-Billings political poll is out and, on most issues, it shows that Montanans are in a decidedly conservative mood with large majorities opposing new gun laws, believing that the federal government is too big, and disapproving of President Barack Obama to name just a few of the poll results.
The yearly poll asks Montanans a variety of questions on political issues facing the nation and state and is often seen as a bellwether for the state political climate.
On gun control, Montanans remain steadfastly opposed to new gun restrictions. While liberal gun control groups have been increasingly active in state politics, a total of 78.2 percent of Montanans oppose any new gun restrictions, with 65.4 percent believing that gun laws in Montana are “about right,” 12.8 percent believing they are “too strict.” Just 17.4 percent believe the laws are “not strict enough.”
Montana voters also expressed the clear sentiment that the federal government is much too large. 74.9 percent of respondents said that the federal government is either “much too large” or “somewhat too large,” with 52.9 percent selecting “much too large.” Only 19.7 percent believe that the size of the federal government is “about the right size,” and a minuscule 2.3 percent believe it is “too small.”
In addition to regular frustration with federal land management policies, the issue of federal overreach has been at the forefront of Montana politics in recent months. The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s new “Waters of the US” (WOTUS) rule, and the Clean Power Plan were announced this year an both are predicted to have negative impacts on Montana.
The poll also shows that President Barack Obama and his signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), remain deeply unpopular. Just 27.8 percent of Montanans approve of the President while 66.5 percent disapprove. On Obamacare, in the face of large health insurance premium increases, 59.5 percent believe that the law has a “negative impact” on Montana.
The poll was a random survey of 435 Montanans taken between November 16 and 23. MSUB political science professor Joshua Poulette noted that the survey was conducted the week after Islamic terrorists murdered 114 people in Paris, France, so terrorism and the refugee issue figured heavily into respondent’s answers.
24.3 percent of respondents — a strong plurality — listed terrorism and “the most important problem facing the United States today.” The poll also found that 47.2 percent — another strong plurality — believe that the U.S. is taking in “too many” refugees, with only 11.6 percent believing that the amount is “too small.”
On presidential politics, Montana’s 3 electoral votes once again look to be out of reach of Democrats, as Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz win every hypothetical matchup with Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The lone bright spot for Democrats is that 50 percent of respondents approve of the job Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is doing, while just 19.6 percent disapprove, leaving the governor in a strong position ahead of his re-election big next year.