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A new post-election poll of Montana voters conducted jointly by Montana State University political scientists and the Montana Television Network finds that Montanans’ political preferences straddle party lines, with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Steve Daines receiving high levels of support from the state’s registered voters.

Additionally, 54 percent of voters polled, including a majority of both Republican and Democratic voters, said they believe things are heading in the right direction in the state, said David Parker, professor in the Department of Political Science at MSU and director of both the post-election poll released today as well as a pre-election poll released prior to the election.

The questions were part of a post-election follow-up poll conducted by the organizations that was mailed the day after the Nov. 6 election and collected between Nov. 8 and Dec. 14. There were 1,424 respondents to the post-election poll. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percent. Earlier this week Parker released MSU/MTN post-election poll results about U.S. Senate and House races here and ballot initiatives here.

Two-term Governor Bullock received the highest approval ratings from Montana respondents with 60 percent of all voters strongly approving or approving of the job he is doing while 34 percent disapprove. Democrats gave him a 91 percent approval rating, while 59 percent of Republicans said they disapprove or strongly disapprove of Bullock. However, 72 percent of Independent voters favor the job he is doing.

Bullock is rumored to be considering a run for U.S. President in 2020, and Parker said his approval rating, which is considered high, should be an asset in those considerations.

Daines, a first-term senator who is up for re-election in 2020, had a 58 percent approval rating among all voters. Republicans approved of the job Daines is doing by a margin of 86 percent while 63 percent of Democrats said they disapproved or strongly disapproved of the job he is doing. Fifty-six percent of Independents said they approve of the job Daines is doing.

Parker said the numbers are likely related to Daines’ keeping a relatively low public profile, selecting issues Montanans care about when he is in the media, and because there are no current campaigns attacking his work.

Ironically, Montanans gave Democratic Senator Jon Tester, who was recently re-elected in a difficult race against Republican challenger Matt Rosendale, and Republican President Donald Trump identical approval rating of 53 percent. Trump made an unprecedented four visits to Montana to oppose Tester’s re-election.

Tester’s favorability largely split along party lines with 99 percent of Montana Democrats approving or strongly approving Tester and 80 percent of Republicans approving or strongly disapproving of him.  However, a majority of Montana Independent voters, or 63 percent, approve of Tester. Parker said Independent voters were one of the key factors in Tester’s re-election in November.

Tester’s approval rating has risen several percentage points since before the November election when voters in a pre-election poll conducted by MSU/MTN indicated his approval rating was 48.9 percent.

Trump’s approval rating in Montana is also split along party lines with 95 percent of Republicans approving or strongly approving the job he is doing and 97 percent of  Democrats disapproving or strongly disapproving of the job he is doing running the country. Forty-four percent of Independent voters approve of the job Trump is doing and 54 percent of Independent voters disapprove of Trump.

Trump’s Montana approval rating is down just slightly from a pre-election poll conducted by MSU/MTN prior to the November election when 54.5 percent of Montana voters approved of the job he was doing.

Fifty percent of Montana voters said they approved of U.S. House Representative Greg Gianforte, who was recently re-elected.

More than half (54 percent) of Montanans felt the state is headed in the right direction while just 29 percent believe it is headed in the wrong directions. A majority of all political affiliations were optimistic with 64 percent of Democrats, 51 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of Independents expressing the opinion the state was headed in the right direction.

Montanans are nearly evenly split on their opinion of whether the country is heading in the right direction.  Fifty percent said the country is heading in the right direction and 42 percent said it is headed in the wrong direction, with opinions generally split along party lines. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats think the country is headed in the wrong direction while 85 percent of Republics are happy with how the country is doing.

The poll also asked voters about their opinions of several national issues, with several questions netting a strong response.

Montanans agree on the importance of protecting federal lands with 89 percent believing it is important. A majority of both Democrats (99 percent) and Republicans 81 percent) favored protection of federal lands.

A strong majority of 76 percent of Montanans believe states should be able to impose a work requirement for Medicaid.

Sixty-five percent of Montanans believe illegal immigration is a serious problem in the country. Republicans are particularly united with 96 percent believing it is a problem.

A couple of questions resulted in mixed opinions.

In general Montanans oppose the 2010 health care reform law with 48 percent opposing it. Democrats favor it by 75 percent and Republicans oppose it by a similar 79 percent. Independents are fairly evenly divided among favoring it (42 percent) and opposing (39 percent).

Forty-six percent of Montanans believe teachers should be able to carry guns in schools, largely split down party lines with 81 percent of Democrats disagreeing and 77 percent of Republicans agreeing.

Forty-nine percent of Montanans think the state should offer a publically funded, voluntary pre-school program, an issue supported by Bullock. Only 28 percent of voters disagree with the proposal. The results were similar for a question about whether the federal government should pursue policies designed to reduce income inequality in the U.S.  Forty-eight percent of Montanans agreed while only 37 percent disagreed.

Montanans are fairly ambivalent about the 2017 tax law (46 percent approve while 38 percent disapprove). The opinion is split in equal measure at 83 percent for (Republicans) and against (Democrats).