Billings Gazette: Montanans don’t want more gun laws, think Obamacare bad for the state, poll finds

Guns, pot, Obamacare, the governor and all of Montana’s Congressional delegation.

Those were some of the topics covered by the Montana State University Billings’ 29th Montana Poll, which was released Monday. 

Nearly two-thirds of Montanans surveyed said gun laws are about right. Seventeen percent said gun laws were not strict enough, while 13 percent felt they were too strict.

Liberals and Democrats were significantly more likely than conservatives and independents to answer that gun laws should be stricter. Older respondents polled were found to be significantly less likely to support stricter gun laws in Montana.

The poll, conducted by students under the guidance of MSUB Department of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies Professor Josh Poulette, surveyed 435 randomly selected adult Montanans, contacting them through both cellphone numbers and landlines.

According to the poll, Gov. Steve Bullock’s approval rating came in at 50 percent from respondents, with 30 percent having no opinion and 20 percent disapproving.

Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines holds a 48 percent approval rating. Among respondents 29 percent had no opinion and 23 percent disapproved.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester holds an approval rating of 47 percent and earned a disapproval response of 39 percent of those surveyed, with 14 percent holding no opinion.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke held a 45 percent approval rating, according to the survey. Of those surveyed, 34 percent held no opinion and 21 percent disapproved.

Among the elected officials whose approval ratings were calculated, Zinke was the only one to have significantly more support from registered voters than support from nonregistered voters.

Montanans seemed to strongly oppose a Colorado-style legalization of marijuana. A little more than 45 percent strongly opposed the proposal compared to 22 percent who said they would strongly support it.

Analysis done by Poulette and his students determined that conservatives were significantly more likely than liberals to oppose marijuana legalization. Older surveyed individuals were significantly more likely to be in opposition, and wealthier respondents were also significantly more likely to be in opposition.

Surveyed about the Affordable Care Act, 60 percent of respondents said the legislation had a negative impact on Montana, 24 percent said it has had a positive impact and 8 percent said its impact was neutral on Montana.

Positive and negative responses hewed significantly to party and ideological lines. The survey’s older respondents were significantly more likely to feel the law has had a positive impact and females were significantly more likely to find the law has had a negative impact. Among the surveyed individuals, those with higher levels of education were found in significant numbers to regard the legislation’s impact on the state as positive.

On the national issue section of the survey, 53 percent of respondents, when asked to describe the size and scope of the federal government, stated it is too large.

Questioned about the most important problem facing the United States today, 24 percent of respondents said terrorism, 11 percent said the government, 9 percent said the economy, 8 percent said federal debt and 8 percent said immigration. The two least-identified problems were taxes and race relations, followed by the environment and education.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating among Montanans sits at 28 percent, with two-thirds of respondents saying they disapprove of his performance. 

Geographically, residents of Eastern and Central Montana were significantly more likely to disapprove of Obama than residents of Western Montana. 

Faring even worse than President Obama was Congress, with 79.4 percent of respondents disapproving of its performance, with older and wealthier respondents significantly more likely to disapprove.

Pollsters found that 59 percent of respondents believe the U.S. is taking too many immigrants, 25 percent believe intake is at the right amount and 9 percent believe not enough immigrants are being taken in. 

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that the U.S. economy was somewhat or very weak. Females, Republicans and conservatives were significantly more likely to believe the economy is frail than independents, Democrats and males. 

When pollsters asked Republican and Republican-leaning independent respondents whom they would support for the Republican presidential nomination, 22 percent said Donald Trump, 19 percent said Dr. Ben Carson, 14 percent said Ted Cruz and 13 percent said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Females were significantly less likely than males to support Trump. With Ben Carson, females were significantly more likely than males in their support.

Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents supported Hillary Clinton 46 percent of the time when polled, with 30 percent supporting U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

When given the choice of Trump or Clinton, 51.4 percent of respondents supported Trump and 30 percent supported Clinton.