HELENA – President Donald Trump has an approval rating of 54.5 percent in Montana – more than any top politician in the state, according to a Montana Television Network-Montana State University poll.
Trump barely edged out Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who scored a 54.2 percent approval rating in the poll. Sen. Steve Daines scored 53.2 percent.
The two members of Congress up for re-election – Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte – had the lowest approval ratings, slightly below 50 percent.
However, the poll also showed that Independents, a sizable voting bloc in Montana, approve of the job that Tester and Bullock are doing by strong margins – but are more disapproving of both Trump and Gianforte.
The mail-ballot poll of more than 2,000 registered voters, conducted during a three-week period in late September and early October, also asked Montanans’ opinions on a variety of issues.
Among other things, more Montanans than not supported the 2017 GOP federal tax cuts, opposed “Obamacare,” and think the country is heading in the right direction.
The poll has an error margin of plus-or-minus 2 percent.
The poll asked respondents whether they strongly approved, approved, disapproved or strongly disapproved of the president, Bullock, Tester, Gianforte and Montana’s Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines.
The percentages of people who approved or strongly approved are added together to come up with an approval rating.
Here’s a look at the ratings for each man:
President Trump: Nearly 32 percent of Montanans strongly approve of the job he’s doing and another 22.6 percent approve, giving him his 54.5 percent approval rating. He also had a disapproval rating of nearly 44 percent, with few people undecided.
His ratings had a clear partisan divide: 94 percent of Republicans like the job he’s doing, while 96 percent of Democrats don’t, including 87 percent who “strongly disapprove.”
But when it comes to Independents, 54.5 percent disapproved and 43 percent approved.
Gov. Bullock: About 39 percent said they approve and 15.4 percent “strongly approve” of the governor’s performance, giving him his 54.2 percent approval. Only 35 percent disapprove of his performance.
Almost 30 percent of Republicans like the job that Bullock is doing, and Independents give him a 62-26 edge on approval vs. disapproval.
Sen. Tester: Tester had a 48.9 percent approval rating, while 45.3 percent disapproved of the job he’s doing as senator. Almost all Democrats polled said he’s doing a good job, and 13.6 percent of Republicans said the same. Among Independents, he had a 60-33 margin on approval-disapproval.
Rep. Gianforte: Gianforte had a 48.1 percent approval rating, the lowest of any officeholder asked about in the poll, and only 17.3 percent of those said they “strongly approve.” His disapproval rating is 41.5 percent.
The partisan divide here also was strong: 89 percent of Democrats polled disapprove of Gianforte’s performance and 87 percent of Republicans liked the job he’s doing. Among Independents, however, just 35 percent approved and 53 percent disapproved.
Sen. Daines: Montana’s junior senator, who’s up for re-election in 2020, had an approval rating of 53.2 percent, with 17.9 percent strongly approving. Independents also gave Daines a positive nod, with 49 percent approving of his performance and 34 percent disapproving.
On issues, Montanans came out strongly on illegal immigration and public/federal lands, but were less united on taxes, health care and the direction of the country. Here are the details:
Direction of the country/state: Nearly 50 percent of Montanans said the country is going in the right direction, while 42 percent said it is not. Democrats are much more likely to say things are going askew, while Republicans overwhelmingly like where things are headed. Independents skew on the negative side, with nearly 48 percent saying the country is going in the wrong direction and 41 percent saying it’s OK.
About 51 percent of Montanans think the state is going in the right direction, but only 31 percent said it’s not – and almost 18 percent said they’re not sure. Oddly enough, the partisan divide on this question barely exists. Democrats, Republicans and Independents are all right around the 50 percent mark in saying the state is doing well.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”): The poll said 48.5 percent of Montanans still oppose it, while 31 percent favor it and 17 percent are in the middle, neither favoring nor opposing.
Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to favor the law, with 71 percent in favor, while 78 percent of GOP respondents oppose it. Independents are slightly more likely to oppose it.
The 2017 Republican federal tax-cut law: Nearly 46 percent of Montanans said they favor it, while 35 percent are opposed. About 19 percent are undecided.
Republicans and Democrats are evenly split, with about 80 percent supporting and opposing, respectively. Independents, however, lean more toward disliking the law or being undecided. Only 34.6 percent of them favor it, while 41 percent oppose it and 25 percent don’t know.
Illegal immigration: 68 percent of Montanans agree that illegal immigration is a “serious problem,” according to the poll and only 16.4 percent disagree. The issue also cuts across partisan lines, somewhat, although it’s clearly much more of an issue for Republicans.
Almost 95 percent of Republicans polled said it’s a serious problem and 62 percent of Independents agreed. So did 30 percent of Democrats.
Protecting federal lands in Montana: Not much disagreement on this issue among Montanans. A full 89 percent said they agree or strongly agree that this protection is important. Democrats are fully on board, with 99 percent agreement, but Independents and Republicans aren’t far behind, at 95 percent and 82.5 percent, respectively.
Story by Mike Dennison, MTN News